Up close with Japan Times Spelling Bee winner MICHAELLA BOSTROM

By on June 12, 2014

March 22 was a great day for 14-year old Michaella Bostrom, a student of Kakegawa International Christian School in Shizuoka prefecture, who took home the trophy for winning the 5th Japan Times Spelling Bee contest. Her winning word ‘frippery’ gives her a chance to compete at the National Spelling Bee in Washington where she was at the time of the interview. Michaella spared a few minutes of her time to share with us her experience.

Where are the Bostroms orignally from and how long have you been in Japan?
Michaella: Both my parents are originally from America (born there). My father’s parents came to Japan as single missionaries in the 1950’s. They met and married, here, went back to the States and had 5 kids, then came back to live permanently. So my father has lived in Japan 47 years, and I and my 9 birth siblings were born and raised here (I also have 3 adopted sisters; twins from Bulgaria, and one Japanese sister who has Down Syndrome).
My mother’s parents were also missionaries, since the 1970’s, and lived in many South East Asian countries, but my mother has lived here in Japan since she was married 23 years ago.

What do you do to train for a spelling bee contest?
Michaella: I tend to be a visual learner, so I mostly practice on my own, reading the words, looking at and repeating the spelling, and writing each word10 times.  For the Scripps Bee I’m studying a lot more words, so I haven’t had time to do all the writing.

Any favorite subject in school? 
Michaella: My favorite subjects in school revolve around writing..  I also love geography, but science and math not so much.   On a separate note, my family homeschooled me for 10 years before my parents started a small, international school called KICS (Kakegawa International Christian School), 6 years ago.

0_0_0_0_396_235_csupload_64122432Did you expect to win the Japan Times Spelling Bee contest?
Michaella: Part of me did, and part of me didn’t, so it was a pleasant surprise for sure!

I understand that this has been your 3rd time to join the competition. How would you compare your first and second experience to the third?
Michaella: The first time I was really nervous, and went blank on the first word, misspelling a rather simple word, so was out on the first round. Then I was able to relax and enjoy the rest of the Bee, learning by observing other spellers with more experience.  The second time I was able to make it to 5th place which was very rewarding.  The 3rd time I was more relaxed, knew the system, and was able to think clearly.

Do you understand the meaning of all the words that you spell or some were just a wild guess?
Michaella: Toward the end the judges used some words that were not on the list we’d studied, so I didn’t know the meaning of the words, but was able to correctly guess the spelling of the words by using common sense and experience with spelling words with similar parts.

bostrom family 2014

The Bostrom family

How have your parents motivated you to help you win?
Michaella: My parents have been very supportive. I did most of the studying on my own, but they, as well as my siblings, would sometimes help me practice.  They encouraged me to have fun and enjoy the experience, with no pressure to worry about whether I won or not.

What’s your  favorite brain food when you’re preparing for a big contest?
Michaella: It doesn’t matter what I eat, but I do tend to study better when I’m munching on a snack or sipping a drink.


bee Past Japan Times Bee Champions
2010 – Sonia Schlesinger (Nishimachi International School)
2011 – Yuichi Yoshioka (Global Indian International School)
2012 – Haruka Masuda (Makuhari International School)
2013 – Daichi Hayakawa (Katoh Elementary School)

Competing for the Scripps is no mean feat.
Here’s a sample of last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Word List

sansculottic, sciomancy, ptylagogue, crapaud knaidel, chalumeau, misocainea, envoûtement,
lansquenet, pathognomonic, trichocercous,transrhenane, misocainea, shillibeer, einkanter, galère

spelling-bee-trophy 2014National Spelling Bee Champions for 7 consecutive years

2008 Sameer Mishra (Lafayette, Indiana)
2009 Kavya Shivashankankar (Olathe, Kansas)
2010 Anamika Veeramani (Cleveland, Ohio)
2011 Sukanya Roy (Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania)
2012 Snigdha Nandipati (San Diego, California)
2013 Arvind Mahankali (New York, New York)

2014 TIE between Sriram Hathwar (Painted Post, New York) and
Ansun Sujoe (Fort Worh, Texas)


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