To Bee or Not to Bee: Here’s How This Kid Earns $100/Hr as a Spelling Coach

Spell “entrepreneur.”

Cole Shafer-Ray is aware of the way to spell it — and the way to be one.

Or ought to I say, bee one. (Buckle up, you’re in for lots of puns.)

The three-time Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee participant and 2015 runner-up has turned his orthographic prowess right into a profession teaching others on the way to out-spell the competitors.

The highschool junior from Norman, Oklahoma, has 10 common shoppers whom he costs $100 an hour. He additionally has a wanna-bee ready record of greater than 400.

“It’s much more profitable than a minimal wage job that the majority of my highschool friends get,” says Shafer-Ray, who coaches most of his shoppers a couple of times every week by way of Skype.

To Bee or To not Bee

Earlier than he’ll settle for a brand new pupil, Shafer-Ray conducts a free preliminary diagnostic session to find out if he and the scholar are an applicable match.

“Mainly, I see how good the speller is,” the 17-year-old says. “I give them recommendations on what they should work on — what their strengths and weaknesses are — they usually can see in the event that they need to proceed with teaching.”

If each pupil and instructor comply with go ahead, Shafer-Ray designs a course for the scholar, crafting weekly assignments that concentrate on language patterns and phrase origins.

Along with the assignments, Shafer-Ray composes a custom-made record of spelling phrases and vocabulary phrases (Scripps added a multiple-choice vocabulary quiz as a part of the preliminary rounds in 2013).

Earlier than the subsequent session, Shafer-Ray analyzes the phrases the scholars missed to deal with weaknesses and work on methods. He says his methodology makes the expertise as pleasurable for him as it’s for the speller.

“Trying again on diagnostic classes from spellers that I’ve had for nearly a yr and seeing the place they’re now, they’ve gotten so, so, so significantly better, and that’s satisfying,” says Shafer-Ray, who began teaching in June 2017. “I’m nonetheless aggressive, so I’m vicariously aggressive by my college students.”

Bee All You Can Bee

Amongst Cole’s hive of spellers is 12-year-old Jason Sorin.

Jason stunned his mother, Deborah, when he made it to the 2017 Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee, the place he tied for 41st after coaching along with her for under eight weeks.

Deborah determined to rent a coach to assist Jason compete this yr — he’s speller No. 391 within the 2018 Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee, Might 29, 30 and 31 — and selected Shafer-Ray based mostly on the free recommendation and phrase lists she discovered on his web site.

“I figured anybody that was that devoted to gifting away stuff free of charge in all probability had a number of worth to provide for individuals who had been prepared to pay him,” Deborah says. “He’s value each penny.”

Along with teaching Jason on phrase origins and normal spelling suggestions, Shafer-Ray supplies time-saving lists for the spellers to review.

“The Bee used to provide out phrase lists of 10,000 phrases, and now they don’t — they only use the dictionary, however clearly there are some shortcuts I wouldn’t have recognized about if it hadn’t been for Cole,” Deborah says. “Earlier than we began working with Cole, Jason had about 11,000 or 12,000 phrases mastered, and now he’s at 25,000.”

Even at $100 an hour, Shafer-Ray is a cut price, in keeping with Deborah, who factors out that there are firms that publicize earlier champs-turned-coaches for upwards of $200 per hour.

“We’re not teaching with him as a result of he’s the most cost effective,” Deborah says. “He’s actually a significantly better worth and I feel is aware of much more than a number of the adults who fake to be consultants within the subject.”

A Spelling Bee Phrases Checklist Price 1000’s

Cole Shafer-Ray competes in the The Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. in 2015. Photo courtesy of Scripps National Spelling Bee/Mark Bowen
Shafer-Ray is a three-time Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee participant and 2015 runner-up.
Photograph courtesy of Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee/Mark Bowen

Shafer-Ray says teaching isn’t essentially the most profitable facet of his enterprise.

His spelling lists forged an much more enchanting, um, spell.

Accessible for obtain from his web site, Shafer-Ray’s Faculty Spelling Bee Complement contains greater than 1,200 phrases organized by grade stage, alongside along with his research suggestions and methods for competing in class spelling bees.

That one sells for $35. He’s misplaced monitor of what number of he’s bought.

He additionally receives non-public electronic mail requests for a wide range of lists he’s created for the national-level competitors, that are organized by themes like etymology and late-round phrases.

These lists can fetch $200 to $300 every.

Then there’s the vaunted Grasp Checklist.

Shafer-Ray says he began compiling the 90,000-word record practically a decade in the past, beginning with the research supplies his older brother used for a state spelling bee.

Since then, this busy bee has mixed these lists with all the research supplies he’s utilized as a nationwide participant, alongside along with his compilation of Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee data that date again to the 1990s.

He cultivates and edits the record, then determines the statistical likelihood that it’ll embrace the phrases requested in the course of the nationwide competitors.

“I spent an entire lot of my summer season consolidating and making a extremely, actually, actually robust record utilizing the sources that I’ve,” Shafer-Ray says. “The rationale persons are so satisfied by it’s as a result of it’s statistically confirmed to have each phrase based mostly on previous bee phrases — I feel that’s an enormous a part of my attraction.”

Based on his web site, since 2009 Shafer-Ray’s Grasp Checklist has contained 97.18% of the shock phrases requested on the Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee. Regardless of a swarm of gives, he’s adamant that the Grasp Checklist will not be on the market.

“I’m nonetheless getting emails to this present day from individuals who need to purchase the record,” Shafer-Ray says. “Individuals have supplied me within the hundreds for that record.”

Wait, he may make how a lot for a listing of spelling phrases?

“That’s what everyone says,” Shafer-Ray says, chuckling. “However I don’t assume I may do it as a result of that will damage me long run.”

Buzz-worthy enterprise

Why would somebody spend that a lot cash to rework their little cherub right into a spelling cognoscente? The Scripps Nationwide Spelling Bee has turn into a big-business, buzz-worthy occasion that features ESPN protection of the ultimate spherical in addition to the next prizes for the winner:

  • $40,000 money prize from Scripps
  • $2,500 financial savings bond from Merriam-Webster, together with a reference library
  • $400 value of Encyclopedia Britannica reference works
  • A visit to New York Metropolis to seem on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan

All that, and the winner receives an engraved trophy — plus bragging rights to all these classmates again dwelling who can’t spell “marocain” (the successful phrase on the 2017 Bee, it describes a sort of gown cloth).

And for many who proceed to scoff at spending hundreds of on a spelling coach, Deborah Sorin means that different dad and mom simply spend that a lot on children’ actions.

“You consider all of the individuals who pay for journey soccer or no matter,” she says. “Jason’s not into that; he’s into this, and so paying a bit of bit for the privilege of getting actual teaching made sense.”

What does this all imply for Shafer-Ray, a highschool child with aspirations to attend Stanford?

“I feel I need to proceed undoubtedly for subsequent yr and doubtless by faculty,” he says. “That means I received’t must get a part-time job throughout faculty, and I can simply give attention to what I need to do.

“I’ll take it so far as it takes me.”

Tiffany Wendeln-Connors is a employees author at The Penny Hoarder. Phrases that she spelled incorrectly whereas scripting this story embrace orthographic, cognoscente and marocain. And he or she would have mistakenly used “entomology” as a substitute of “etymology” if it hadn’t been for an eagle-eyed editor.

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