Feature Stories

MMW Sixth Grader Qualifies for Scripps National Spelling Bee

Kai Riedner, a sixth grader from Minnetonka Middle School West, has qualified to represent the state of Minnesota at the Scripps National Spelling Bee this spring. 

Riedner’s path to nationals started when he won the school-level spelling bee at MMW, and then took him to semi-regionals and regionals, which he won on Thursday, March 7 to officially punch his ticket to the country-wide event in Washington, D.C. He will be one of only nine students from Minnesota at the event.

“It is relatively rare for a sixth grader to win the building bee at MMW,” said school counselor Paula Erbisch. “To follow that up with a strong showing at semi-regionals and to win regionals is such a delight! Kai also studied hard and engaged in all the study material I could provide him, and then sought on more on his own. His victory [at regionals] was much deserved!”

Riedner shared that he did not know anything about spelling bees before winning the challenge at the middle school. “I literally knew nothing about Scripps National Spelling Bee,” said Riedner. “I knew a lot of words because I love reading books and I speak three languages (English, Polish and Spanish). I just chose French as my elective course in the seventh grade. I enjoy learning new words.”

In his words, the journey to prepare for the regional bee has required “perseverance, dedication and time.” Mindset is an important component, as well. “If you think you can't do it, you're probably not going to make it,” said Riedner. “It's helpful to have a goal in mind – in my case, it was to go to Washington D.C.”

MMW Language Arts teacher Margaret Ruffino commended Riedner for his tenacity throughout the process. “When Kai puts his mind to something like the Spelling Bee competition, watch out!” said Ruffino. 

Being the Twin Cities Regional Champion has made him feel happy and proud, he shared, as well as excited to participate in the national event. Even though he is relatively new to spelling bees, his victory at regionals was not completely unexpected. “On the morning of the Regional Spelling Bee, I woke up and said I would win,” said Riedner. “I thought that if I said it, then I could manifest it, but I also believed in myself, because I studied a lot and felt prepared.”

At regionals, Riedner’s winning word was ‘Eudiometer,’ an instrument for the volumetric measurement and analysis of gases. His favorite word to spell is ‘Ouagadougou.’ “It sounds complicated, but actually is not. It is the capital city of Burkina Faso, a country in Africa,” Riedner explained.

The Scripps National Spelling Bee will take place from May 28-30. The Minnetonka Schools community will be cheering you on, Kai!

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