DATE: February 13, 2020
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
The Winning Word Suggests Speaking Softly, but the Division’s Three-Time Spelling Bee Champion’s Performance Spoke Volumes
(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – One of the winning words,
sotto voce, means to speak softly, but Layla Bouber’s third consecutive division championship last evening spoke loudly about her scholarship and dedication to excellence. Layla, an eighth-grade student at Henley Middle School, became the school division’s first three-time champion at the division’s 15th annual Spelling Bee. It took 21 rounds of spirited competition among the 21 students who won their individual school championships, and Layla captured her title by spelling both
sotto voce and
resiliency in the final round.
More than a thousand students in grades 3-8 competed in their school-wide spelling bees beginning this past November.
Ingrid Flaherty, a seventh-grade Burley Middle School student, finished second. The top six placements qualify for the regional competition, which will include champions from public and private schools throughout Central Virginia. The Regional Bee will be at Albemarle High School on Saturday, March 7, beginning at 10 a.m.
In addition to Layla and Ingrid, the four students who qualify for the Regional Bee are all elementary school students and include Maximilian Alhusen from Brownsville; Sophia Aylor from Woodbrook; Louis DeFranzo from Agnor-Hurt; and Hayden Castle from Meriwether Lewis.
This is the fifth consecutive year in which Layla will be participating in the Regional Bee, with the winner qualifying for the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which will be held the week of May 24-29 at National Harbor, Maryland.
“Layla has been a phenomenal competitor,” said Catrina Sims, the school division’s lead coach for Language Arts. “She retires as a three-time champion as she moves on to high school next year,” Sims added.
“In addition to our six outstanding representatives for the Regional Bee, last evening was an opportunity to celebrate all competitors. Every student was well-prepared. The sportsmanship and support they showed for one another was such a valuable part of this learning process,” Sims said.
The National Spelling Bee dates back to 1925. In 2019, for the first time ever, the national championship was a group award, shared by eight students. This year, more than 11 million students across the country will have participated in a spelling bee at their school. For more information on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is administered on a not-for-profit basis by The E.W. Scripps Company, visit
Sims, whose areas of professional concentration include reading and literacy, said being able to spell and understand how words and sounds come together are vital skills in learning how to read and communicate, even in a sophisticated technology age. “Being able to spell is not only fundamental to Language Arts, but learning word origins and their histories is important to understanding civilizations and our increasingly complex and diverse world,” she said.
Pictured: Layla Bouber with Henley Middle School principal, Beth Costa, and father Thomas