News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

May 23, 2014

Wabash Valley spelling champ takes on teachers before heading off for National Bee

Woodrow Wilson’s Kimmie Collins making second trip to Washington, D.C. event

TERRE HAUTE — Spelling the word “onomatopoeia” was not hard for Woodrow Wilson eighth-grader Kimmie Collins.

She just wrote it out with her finger on her arm, spelled it to herself, and then correctly spelled it for her fellow eighth-graders to “win” a mock spelling bee competition against teachers Friday.

Today, Collins and her family will make a trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. She is a repeat winner of the Tribune-Star Wabash Valley Regional Spelling Bee, now in its 31st year.

As a special send-off for their top speller, the school’s eighth-grade teachers and principal Susan Mardis took to the school stage in front of the eighth-grade student body to attempt to out-spell Kimmie.

Of course, some of the adults were asked to spell words such as principal, teacher, literature and biology. Kimmie was given words such as ameliorate, lambaste and dichotomy.

Some of the teachers bowed out on seemingly simple words — such as dioxyribonucleic acid. Science teacher Shirley Ackman thought about the spelling of that one for a few seconds before taking the easy — but wrong — way out with a simple “D-N-A.”

When teacher Colleen Sutliff was asked to spell arithmetic, she responded “m-a-t-h.”  Teacher Christine Rhodes nailed “literature” but in response to “cheer” she spelled “leader.”

It came down to a spell-off between principal Mardis and Kimmie. A word that “sounded like” onomatopeia — get it? — was the downfall of Mardis. Kimmie won by spelling “winner.”

“This was all in fun, but we do want to wish Kimmie well on her trip,” Spell Bowl coach Michelle Manning said at the conclusion of the jocularity.

With her parents Debbie and Mike Collins on the stage with her, Kimmie received a “Warrior Strong” sash as well as a beautiful bracelet with a bee charm from the teachers to signify her trip to the national contest at the school’s “queen bee.”

“We’re with you and we support you and we’re very proud of you,” Mardis told Kimmie.

The eighth-grader was not shy when it was her turn to address her fellow students.

“So many of you have supported me and helped me study,” she said in a farewell to her classmates who will be graduating to high school “Thank you. You guys are wonderful. I’m gonna miss those of you going to [Terre Haute] South, and to those going to North, I’ll see you next year.”

The eighth-graders raised a chant of “Kim-mie, Kim-mie, Kim-mie!”

Explaining her process of spelling out a word before she gives the answer, Kimmie said it’s her process for eliminating mistakes.

“I’m a visual person, so ‘writing’ it on my arm helps me ‘see’ it for a second,” she said.

Her parents said they are thrilled that their daughter is taking her second trip to the national competition, and they support her efforts by practicing with her often.

“We fit it in where ever we can,” mom Debbie said. “She totally leads this. We’re just the pit crew.”

Her dad agreed.

“We’re proud of all her hard work and thanks to Woodrow Wilson for giving her this send-off today,” dad Mike said.

Kimmie is one of 14 Hoosier spellers who advanced to the national competition, which includes 281 spellers.

To follow Kimmie’s progress at the national competition, go online to for updates.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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