Celebrating 25 Years: Jody-Anne Maxwell’s Historic Triumph at Scripps National Spelling Bee

2023 commemorates the 25th anniversary of Jody-Anne Maxwell’s groundbreaking victory at the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Back in 1998, at the tender age of 12, Maxwell etched her name in history as the first Jamaican, first Black, and first non-American person to claim this prestigious international accolade. Young Maxwell secured the championship crown after correctly spelling the word “chiaroscurist,” surpassing 248 finalists hailing from the Bahamas, Mexico, and other nations.

A Spelling Star from Kingston, Jamaica

Born in Kingston in 1986 and a student of Ardenne High School, Jody-Anne Maxwell earned her spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee after emerging victorious in Jamaica’s National Spelling Bee Championship. As a result of her achievement, she was awarded a cash prize of $10,000 and an educational trust fund amounting to $11,000.

Maxwell was guided to her spelling championship by Reverend Glen Archer, a long-time spelling coach and educator at Ardenne High and a recipient of Jamaica’s Order of Distinction who died in 2015. While at Ardenne, Maxwell was the “head girl” of her class and was not especially excited at being informed that her duties included participation in the spelling bee. She was told that she would be stripped of her “head girl” title if she did not compete in the national competition, so she agreed to do so.

At the time, Reverend Archer told Maxwell’s father that she had the talent to win the Nationals; her father was not surprised, since the Maxwell family has other spelling champions. Her sister Janice had previously won the competition in 1990.

Where is Jody-Anne Maxwell Now?

Not much has been heard from Jody-Anne Maxwell since her win, but in 2018, news emerged that Maxwell had earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence Law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in Illinois.

Photo – LinkedIn