First time’s the charm for a Greentree Elementary fifth grader who won the Humble ISD district-wide spelling bee two weekends ago.

Gabby Robertson, 11, claimed the championship Feb. 15 after winning at both the class and school levels to progress to district. According to Leslie Robertson, Gabby’s mother, the title had previously been held by Ian Robertson, Gabby’s brother, for three consecutive years.

Leslie said, “My daughter decided to compete and we were very happy and surprised that she won the district spelling bee her first year entering.”

According to Leslie, the competition is stiff and the vocabulary for the spelling bee includes difficult words like “froufrou” which was the winning word this year. “What they do is,” Leslie explained, “they have the classrooms compete and the winners of each class compete in the school spelling bee. Then they declare a champion and that champion from each school, elementary through middle school, goes to the district bee.

“It’s words that are beyond your grade level so preparation is important. They have to have knowledge of language rules.” According to Leslie, Gabby took studying very seriously and even opted to study on her birthday in preparation for competition. “She was very dedicated to studying,” Leslie continued. “She was reading the dictionary and comparing words that are similar to make sure she didn’t make a mistake with similar words.”

Leslie shared that Ian’s decision to retire from the spelling bee competition “did not come easy to me” because she saw his potential and how good Ian was in the previous years.

“He just has a gifted memory and was able to dissect these words,” she added. “So when he told me that he was retiring, I looked at it like a waste. I was very disappointed and I kept asking if he was sure. But I’m not going to force him to do it. I have to let him make his own decisions and I supported him in the end.”

Although Ian would not be competing in this year’s spelling bee, Leslie said that Gabby expressed that she wanted to enter. “Seeing him win year after year, I think that’s how she became interested in the competition,” said Leslie.

Being that this was Gabby’s first year to enter, Leslie said that she went into the season thinking it would be a good practice year for her daughter. “I looked at it like she would be young and inexperienced,” Leslie said. “But towards the end, when I could see all that she was learning and picking up, I had a really good feeling about it.”

According to Leslie, she was impressed with and appreciated the support of Greentree Elementary Principal Denise Rodriguez, who showed up at all of the spelling bees. Leslie also mentioned the tremendous support of Dr. Roger Brown, deputy superintendent for Humble ISD. “Dr. Brown has been very supportive throughout this journey,” she said. “He recognizes and truly understands the effort this takes.”

Leslie said that the experience validated the advice that she tells her children: “When you work hard, you get results.”

“I really wanted [Gabby] to see that,” Leslie continued. “To see that the hard work she put in when her friends were playing and she was studying, it pays off. You can tell your kids all you want about work ethic, but when their ethic leads them to an actual result, it is a really good lesson.” Leslie also said performing under pressure and in front of a large audience was a great experience.

With the win of Gabby, the Robertson family has held the District Spelling Bee title four years in a row. Gabby plans to compete again next year, possibly beginning her own winning streak in the footsteps of her older brother.

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