At 14, she passed the preliminary onstage spelling rounds at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Now a professional Spelling Coach, Bernadette takes on Scripps’ newest debut: its youngest qualifier in history.
Bernadette Miao, 16, became a household name throughout Chicago when she qualified for the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. To qualify, she beat out 30 other students in her school, placed in the top three in her county, and came out a winner at regionals before heading off to the capital. Since she’s now aged out of Scripps, Bernadette is taking on protégés preparing for their own spelling bees.
Her latest is 6-year-old Edith Fuller, a home-schooled student and the youngest competitor ever to compete in the national spelling bee. Using a separate, shorter microphone, Edith outspelled dozens of other competitors in the 2017 Scripps Green Country Regional Spelling Bee in Tulsa, Oklahoma, including spellers up to eighth grade.
To practice, Edith said, “My mommy asked me words, and each time I would misspell one, I would look at it.” Her father says, “God has given her a passion for words and a tenacity for mastering her study materials.” These traits contributed to her recent win.
After learning about Edith’s successes, Bernadette reached out and volunteered her time through the Brainsy-powered Spelling Coach Expert Calling Network
, or “ECN”, to prepare the now Internet-famous, pint-sized competitor for the national stage.
Bernadette’s coaching consists of vocabulary word lists complete with pronunciations, uplifting email status updates, and personalized phone calls to keep her youngest student focused. While getting Edith ready for the challenge, Bernadette admitted, “The way I asked vocabulary is definitely harder than how the Bee assesses it. The Bee vocabulary will be multiple-choice format,” where Bernadette simply asks Edith to spell and define her given vocabulary words off the cuff.
Still, Edith continues to exceed expectations by easily spelling any word up to a sixth-grade level and most words in seventh- and eighth-grade levels. “Edith is really focused when she spells,” says Bernadette. “She is great at clarifying the word to make sure that she knows what word she is being asked.”
The Fuller family says they are grateful for the coaching Bernadette provides. “It helps to have the perspective of a recent competitor so we know what to expect on the national stage. The feedback we receive from Edith’s sessions with Bernadette focuses our limited study time. Another benefit of the ECN is the sense of community with other families who have had similar experiences.”
This isn’t Bernadette’s first foray in teaching others her spelling skills. Since participating in Scripps, she started up a number of spelling bee clubs at her local schools and libraries, getting the programs off the ground and encouraging outward growth. She also remains active in the spelling community as a coach and judge, and is an avid math student and tutor as well.
Now Bernadette teams with the ECN as a Spelling Coach, offering her expertise in phone and email consultations to wanna “bee” spellers throughout the United States. The proceeds from her local programs and her work with ECN are donated to start new spelling programs in other communities.
As for Edith? Catch her debut on the Scripps National Spelling Bee stage on Wednesday, May 31 at ESPN3