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TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI) — A Northeast Mississippi girl is headed to the National Spelling Bee in the nation’s capitol. As WCBI’s Allie Martin reports in this week’s edition of “Making the Grade” the super speller likes to learn new words and thrives on competition.

Eleven year old Maria Kaltchenko likes everything about school, her favorite subject is science.

And she especially likes to study words and also to spell them.

“I think it’s because I like to read a lot and the more I see the words, the more they stick in my brain,” Kaltchenko said.

Her studying and love of words is paying off. The seventh grader at Tupelo Middle School has won the Lee County Spelling Bee the last two years in a row, and recently she took top honors in the regional Mid South Spelling Bee in Memphis.

She is the first Tupelo student to win that event in more than 40 years and now she will go to Washington DC for the Scripps National Spelling Bee at the end of May. She will face off against hundreds of champion spellers from across the globe.

“It’s going to be very competitive and I’m just going to try and do my best,” she said.

Kaltchenko studies at least an hour a day and will be working extra hard for the national competition.

“We bought several books of word lists and I’m printing out new word lists everyday and studying roots, and stuff like that,” she said.

For the National Spelling Bee, any word in Webster’s Third Unabridged Dictionary is fair game. That volume has more than 500,000 words.

Along with studying word lists, Maria also makes it a point to analyze and study rules of spelling.

“At the actual spelling bee you’re allowed to ask questions about the word, including its language of origin and that usually gives hints as to what word pattern it fits into, there are obviously words that don’t follow any word pattern, but the more familiar you are with rules for different languages, the better your chances are,” she said.

Maria is a straight A student and she is also on the bridge building team here at the Middle School, they have been invited to the national competition, the problem, it’s the same day as the big spelling bee so she has to give up her spot on the bridge building team, someone else will go in her place as she studies and prepares for the Washington DC competition.

Maria says she would like to pursue a career in the medical field after high school and college.

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