Rebekah Zeigler, 12, is the four-time reigning Regional Spelling Bee Champion and will represent the Sauk Valley at the Scripp’s National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. on May 27.
She is a seventh-grade student at Aplington Middle School in Polo. Her parents are Alissa and Mark, and she has a sister Nichole, 16, a sophomore at Polo High School, and a brother Gage, 11, a fifth-grader at Centennial Elementary in Polo.
Rebekah also has three cats: Peppermint, Junior, and Midnight, and one dog, Remy.
What is your favorite subject in school?
Probably English or P.E. I love sports.
What is your favorite thing about spelling bees?
I am a competitive person. I like studying language patterns. During spelling bees, you get to meet people from all over the world. You also have support from friends and family.
What is the hardest word you have spelled?
I have had a lot of hard words, but pfeffernusse (a type of cookie) was not that bad. Tchotschke (a small decorative object or trinket), buckminsterfullerene (a chemical compound called a buckyball) was not hard but it is really long at 20 letters. I missed words at the national bee that I don’t remember (such as paramountcy, a legal term, and the word that eliminated Rebekah from the 2017 national bee.)
What is your favorite word?
I like calliope, it is really fun to spell. Petrichor has a good definition (a pleasant smell after rain.)
What is your favorite dictionary?
I like the Merriam-Webster Third Edition. I have two of them. I do not own the Oxford English Dictionary.
What is the hardest thing about watching other competitors get eliminated from the spelling bee?
I can relate to them because I have been there before. I understand what it is like to miss a word.
What advice would you give a new speller?
Have fun. When spelling on stage, take your time – it is a process. You will not know every word. Find a way to enjoy it. Try to learn new words every day. Reading books will expand your vocabulary.
Are you interested in learning other languages?
My free time is limited, but I pick up on languages and can understand some Spanish words.
Who is your hero or role model?
My spelling role model is Vanya Shivashanker (Olathe, Kansas, the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee co-champion). She won the bee 4 years ago. She is really nice and talked to me. She still goes to the bee to help spellers.
What other activities do you like?
I love sports and do club volleyball in Oregon, gymnastics in Dixon, track, volleyball, softball, basketball, soccer, and cheerleading. I joined the track team this spring.
What are you reading or listening to?
I like music in the car and read all the time. Music is good for studying. I like books first, music second, then movies. I like the “Book Thief” by Markus Zusak, “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett, “The Lunar Chronicles” by Marissa Meyer, and anything young adult. I like all music, but my favorite artist is Halsey. I like pop, Christian, and some rap.
If you were president for a day and could accomplish anything, what would you do?
I would eat pizza and ice cream, and macaroons. I would play volleyball all day with my friend Tia and Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May of the Olympic beach volleyball team.
How would you describe Polo?
Small. Very friendly. Homey. It is amazing for such a small town what we have. We have an outdoor pool. We have good schools. We are rural. I love Polo.
If you could travel anywhere in the world for a month, where would you go?
The Dominican Republic for the beach and ocean. It is really pretty there. Maybe Machu Picchu, Peru, or France for the food.