6th-grader spells his way to the top

Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene MediaKingston Czajkowski, 11, stands with a banner signed by fellow students congratulating him on his victory in the Capital Region Spelling Bee and his upcoming trip to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in May in Washington, D.C.

CAIRO — “C-z-a-j-k-o-w-s-k-i.”

Remember that name.

Kingston Czajkowski, a sixth-grade student at Cairo-Durham Middle School has been honing his spelling skills his entire life. “It’s Polish,” Kingston said, referring to his speller’s-demon surname.

Kingston, 11, of Cairo, recently won the Capital Region Spelling Bee in Schenectady and will travel to Washington, D.C., in May to compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Out of the 113 contestants on Feb. 4, Kingston is the only finalist going to the nationals, he said Wednesday. His winning word in the Capital Region bee was the Egyptian term “ankh.”

“It’s a symbol of life,” Kingston said.

Learning the origin or root of words is part of Kingston’s studying technique with his spelling tutor, Drew Sirago, an 11th grader.

“Different languages have different rules and you can use that to try and figure out how to spell a word,” Kingston said.

Kingston prepares by studying the Greek and Latin roots of words with flashcards and watching videos of other regional and state spelling bees on Youtube, he said.

“And I read a lot of books that are old — not written in the past 50 years,” Kingston said.

Kingston has been competing in his school’s spelling bees since first grade.

“I didn’t win until fourth grade,” he said. “This was my third year in regionals.”

Last year Kingston placed second in the regional competition.

Despite his experience, Kingston gets a bit of stage-fright, he said.

“I’m very nervous,” he said. “I’m nervous all the time. You’d think that after a few years of doing it I wouldn’t be nervous but I’m nervous every year. I’m also excited at the same time.”

Kingston’s parents, David and Ling Czajkowski, have been supportive, Kingston said.

Cairo-Durham Middle School Principal Dotan Schips said the district is incredibly proud of Kingston and his accomplishment.

Although she could not be there in person, Kingston said, his former teacher Donna Howell always “sends him positive energy through her mind the whole day,” whenever he is competing.

Kingston’s English teacher, Erin Murphy, described him as “amazingly humble.”

“He has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and we are all so excited and happy for him,” Murphy said. “I feel lucky to have been able to watch him on this journey, which has been going on since now-retired ELA teacher, Mrs. Donna Howell, included him in the district spelling bee as a second-grader, at the encouragement of Kingston’s parents. To watch the progression has been amazing, and I am beyond excited to watch Kingston in the National Bee this year.”

Following his triumph in the regionals, Kingston went out to dinner to celebrate with his grandparents at the Hong Kong Bakery & Bistro in Colonie.

Kingston is active in extra-curricular athletic activities such as soccer, basketball, tennis, swimming and baseball.

As for his future plans, Kingston said he is weighing his options.

“I really like math, so maybe I’ll be a mathematician,” he said. “Or a scientist. I like all my classes. I like writing poetry too. So maybe I would write poetry on the side. There’s so many options.”

Kingston will be in Washington from May 24 to May 29 for the national spelling bee with some 400 other contestants from across the country, he said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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