Corning Rotary Announces Winners of 2021 Scripps Regional Spelling Bee

CORNING, NY — The Corning Rotary Club is pleased to announce Joseph Rajaratnam, 9, of Corning, NY took first place in the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee held Saturday, March 27, 2021. Joseph, a 3rd grader at Chemung Valley Montessori School in Elmira, NY, is the son of proud parents Samuel Rajaratnam and Uma Yoganathan. As champion, Joseph will represent our region in the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Thursday, July 8, at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, FL, which will be broadcast in primetime on ESPN2.

This year’s Regional Bee format was a little different from past years. Rather than competing in person, spellers took an online spelling and vocabulary test. The test consisted of 45 words and spellers had 30 minutes to complete it. Joseph was the only speller to have a perfect score. Words he had to spell correctly included azulejo, which is a kind of glazed, colored tile, and tumulus, which is an ancient burial mound.

Joseph prepared for the Regional Bee by going over the “Words of the Champions” list, word by word, learning the spelling. After learning the spelling, he then used the Spelling Bee app to learn the vocabulary for the words. For his efforts, Joseph received a first-place trophy as well as a copy of Words from the Champs, a book by Sriram and Jairam Hathwar, local brothers who won the National Spelling Bees in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

Natalie Dang, 11, a 6th grader at St. John the Evangelist School in Binghamton, NY, won the second-place trophy. McKenzie Calderwood, 14, an 8th grader at Prattsburgh Central School, earned the third-place slot, receiving a travel mug. All participating spellers received a medal, a T-shirt, an insulated lunch bag, a journal, a tote with the Spelling Bee logo, some fun pens, and sunglasses.

In addition to the Corning Rotary Club, this year’s sponsors included the Bath Rotary Club, Corning Credit Union, Corning Natural Gas, Corning Rotary Literacy Committee, COVANEX, and ServU Credit Union. These Regional Bee sponsors will cover Joseph’s travel expenses to Orlando, FL.

Participation in spelling bees improves students’ spelling and vocabulary skills and helps them develop poise — a necessary skill for success in public speaking, performing arts and athletics. For more information about the Scripps Regional Spelling Bee, please contact Deb Joseph at (607) 329 – 6854 or


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