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Kerry-Ann Hamilton
Media Relations Manager

Howard Middle School Student Wins City-wide Spelling Bee

Photos by Kerry-Ann Hamilton

Avery Coffey,13, won the City-wide Spelling Bee on March 20, 2010. The eight grader at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science will participate in the national Scripps competition in June.

WASHINGTON (March 26, 2010) — Avery Coffey, an eighth grader at the Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)² won 1st place in the nail-biting Washington Informer City-wide Spelling Bee competition held last Saturday at the NBC4 Studios in Northwest Washington.

Coffey successfully spelled the word “p-l-a-n-k-t-o-n” to clinch the victory in this year’s competition. The win was particularly poignant because the 13-year-old earned second place in 2008 and 2009. This victory allows him to advance to the 2010
Scripps National Spelling Bee for the very first time. It will be held June 2-4 in the District of Columbia.

“I was excited, but I don’t want to be overly confident ahead of the next round of competition,” Coffey said. “I have a lot more practicing to do.”

However, Coffey’s mother and 4-year-old sister were overwhelmed with tears as he claimed the 1st place trophy. Also present was his coach and teacher of three years Rebecca Christian.

“I was not surprised that Coffey won the spelling bee,” Christian said. “He was disciplined, practiced and worked very hard.”

Christian and Coffey held tightly to their practice secrets, but stressed the importance of language, etymology, definition, and context. The duo exhausted scores of lists over the last three years. The teen from Southeast Washington discovered his knack for spelling in the fourth grade and “kept at it.” He practices at least three hours every day.

Coffey enrolled at (MS)² in 2006 and has been the resident spelling champ. Sue White, head of school, described her student’s win as exhilarating.

“When it got down to the final two, Avery went 53 rounds with a student from Deal Jr. High School, before he emerged victorious,” White said. “We are extremely proud of Coffey; he demonstrated focus, stamina and determination.”

The school plans to host a reception for Coffey for his achievement.

Howard University senior and (MS)² intern Brittney Reeves also worked with Coffey for the last two years. He was grateful for her commitment and thanked his family, friends, teachers and classmates. Much like the famed movie "Akeelah and the Bee," Coffey said "preparing for the Bee is hard work and you get help from a lot of people to be successful."

The national competition, Scripps Spelling Bee, is the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion, administered on a not-for-profit basis by the E.W. Scripps Company and local spelling bee sponsors in the United States, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Department of Defense Schools in Europe; also, the Bahamas, Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, New Zealand, and South Korea. The purpose of the Bee is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.


The Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science (MS)² is a public charter school committed to academic excellence, with a specific focus on mathematics and science. It is located at 405 Howard Place, NW, on the main campus of Howard University. Its mission is to provide a sound foundation in all academic subjects, and a concentration in mathematics and science. For more information visit

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