TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – At Tampa International Airport Tuesday night, it was a homecoming fit for a champion.
“I’m very privileged to be here,” said Dev Shah, the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion.
Shah correctly spelled “psammophile,” which refers to an organism that thrives in sandy soils or areas, to win this year’s Spelling Bee.
“When I heard the word it was like a feeling of relief because I was really stressed before then,” Shah said, “but I studied the word before and I was confident I knew it.”
Friends and former teachers were beaming with pride as they embraced the 14-year-old from Largo when he arrived with his family at the main terminal.
Pat Choi was Shah’s fourth-grade English-Language Arts teacher at Ridgecrest Elementary School.
“He was the best speller in my class and I never had to correct his writing and his spelling when he was writing essays for me,” Choi said, “so that was wonderful.”
Shah’s principal at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School Ija Hawthorne said the rising ninth grader instantly became a role model for his peers
“He’s shown his classmates that if you work and you practice, your dreams do come true,” She said.
For the rest of us who still need to work on our spelling, Shah had some playful advice.
“Well, it’s OK now because now we have spell check,” he said, “so you don’t have to become a better speller.”
Hawthorne said the celebration for the Spelling Bee champion will continue with a parade Thursday at the middle school in Pinellas County.
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