In his first year of competing in spelling bees, Ahwatukee Foothills fourth-grader Jack Piorkowski has already found himself preparing for the state spelling bee.

Piorkowski, who won the Maricopa Regional 1 Spelling Bee last month with the word “campestral,” competed against 36 fourth- through eighth-grade students from Kyrene and Mesa school districts.

“We were elated, surprised and just shocked because of the words he spelled he never heard and never practiced before,” said Piorkowski’s mom, Cati.

“It was very exciting.”

A student at Kyrene de la Colina, Piorkowski will compete on March 23 for the chance to represent Arizona in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

During the regional bee, Piorkowski was pitted against a lengthy 32 rounds, far above the average of about 15 for regional spelling bees.

In preparing for the state spelling bee, Cati said her son is sticking to his simple study routine: lots of reading.

“He’s always been a reader.”

Piorkowski studies the 1,150 Scripps words for about an hour everyday. Scripps also provides a few study tools, and includes multiple origins for each word on the list.

Cati said she and her husband also write down words they see for him, and use a website to hear the correct pronunciation of each word. But mostly, it’s all reading.

Though Piorkowski’s clear knack for words and passion for reading is reaping early success, Cati said his dream job when he grows up is a little different: a photographer for National Geographic.

This Saturday’s spelling bee will be televised on Channel 8 as Piorkowski competes against 26 of the top spellers in the state.

For more information about the Scripps National Spelling Bee, visit

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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