Hard work pays off for LMS geography bee winner

Eighth-grader Donia Kashkooli is the winner of this year’s geography bee at Langley Middle School. - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Eighth-grader Donia Kashkooli is the winner of this year’s geography bee at Langley Middle School.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

LANGLEY — The winner of the Langley Middle School geography bee hasn’t been all over the world. Not yet, at least.

Though Donia Kashkooli has traveled here, there and most everywhere, that was only one reason she won the LMS geography bee sponsored by the National Geographic Society earlier this month, and now has a chance to compete at the state geography bee.

The 13-year-old first-generation Iranian American has been to the Middle East, Mexico, Canada and several countries in Europe. Africa and South America are on her “to visit” list. Antarctica, however, is not.

“This stuff just interests me,” Donia said. “I just like reading about different places.”

Boy, does she.

Donia spent seven hours studying an atlas the night before the competition on Jan. 10. In the weeks leading to the bee, she averaged about two hours each night reading a “World Factbook” or scanning Google Earth.

All the work paid off. Donia won her class bee in Kent Ratekin’s eighth-grade class. She advanced to compete against 13 other students in front of the school and her dad who attended to support his daughter.

“He was really happy,” Donia said. “He gave me a huge hug.”

During the LMS geography bee, Donia was selected to go first. Being in front of her peers answering questions made the aspiring pilot or professional basketball player nervous.

“To be honest, I was kind of scared,” Donia said.

She must have put on a brave face, because the bee’s organizer Mary Bakeman was surprised at Donia’s assessment.

“You looked pretty confident up there,” said Bakeman, a seventh-grade language arts and social studies teacher.

Each contestant could get two questions wrong. The third incorrect response eliminated the student.

Unlike other years, Bakeman said, students went through a few rounds of questions before they started to get stumped by the bee.

“This particular year the kids were very sharp,” Bakeman said.

With only three contestants left, Donia had yet to answer incorrectly. The runners up, Sean Miles (sixth grade) and Liam Twoomey (seventh grade), each had one strike against them.

Donia had to go first, and fielded a question about which East Coast state Hatteras Island was part of.

By process of elimination, she guessed North Carolina. She guessed right.

“I got it right and everyone started screaming and cheering,” Donia said.

The other two finalists answered incorrectly, leaving Donia the winner.

“I was hoping to get first (place), but I didn’t know I would,” she said.

As the LMS winner, she took a written, 70-question exam to qualify for the state geography bee. Bakeman and Donia are awaiting the results, which should be in February. The state bees will be held before the end of March.

Donia plans to stay busy studying for the state bee. Even if she doesn’t qualify, it won’t be time wasted. She loves looking at maps and learning facts about countries’ economies, populations and customs.

“You have to know about the world,” Donia said.

“Traveling is really important, too.”


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