From Competitor to Leader: Corrie Loeffler ’04 Named Executive Director of Scripps National Spelling Bee
Scherenschnitte, knaidel, euonym—silent anticipation stretches through the auditorium as spelling bee contestants ascend to the podium, tackling words unheard of to the average audience member. Then seven-year-old Corrie Loeffler ’04 watches with wide eyes as her older brother competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. She becomes determined to attend the national competition again—this time on her own merit.
After flying back to her hometown in Central California, Loeffler developed a passion for words. When she filled out a “get-to-know-you” activity sheet for school, she knew exactly what to write in as her dream job: working for the spelling bee. Her determination paid off, and Loeffler competed at the national level in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade.
“Even though I never won, the Bee was the turning point in my life,” said Loeffler. “It pushed me to reconsider what is possible. It made me dream a little bigger and reach a little higher for the rest of my life.”
Loeffler continued to invest in the spelling bee after her time as a contestant, volunteering the week of the competition as a high schooler and, before long, a freshman at Azusa Pacific University.
During her time in college, Loeffler encountered a host of valuable, leadership-building experiences that would prepare her for her future career with the Bee.
“I joined the APU forensics team and traveled all over the country competing in speech and debate,” said Loeffler. “It broadened my worldview and taught me to not just be informed, but to also develop opinions and argue them well.”
The opportunity to study abroad in Oxford, along with local volunteering experiences in downtown Los Angeles, continued to broaden Loeffler’s cultural understanding of the world around her.
As she studied in a variety of courses—from film to rhetoric—Loeffler found that her professors were not just educators, but lifelong role-models and encouragers, such as Monica Ganas, PhD, professor in the Department of Theater Arts.
“Dr. Ganas directed an APU theater production, in which I played a small role. On opening night, she handed each cast member a handwritten note that detailed our unique, God-given strengths,” said Loeffler. “Those are the moments that make you believe in yourself: when someone you respect takes the time to see you and affirm you.”
Loeffler still carries that note with her today, reminding her of the empathetic leadership she experienced at Azusa Pacific and inspiring her to show the same level of care to the people she directs.
When Loeffler graduated in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in English and began working for a nonprofit, her childhood passion for spelling was still alive in the back of her mind.
In 2006, an opportunity arose to move to Cincinnati as a general project manager for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Loeffler took the leap, leaving behind her familiar California home for what she assumed would be a dream-fulfilling adventure of a few years.
As she began working with the bee, however, what started out as a job quickly became a life-impacting career. After serving on the Scripps National Spelling Bee staff for 16 years, most recently as the director of editorial programs, Loeffler has been promoted to executive director.
“I have seen every side of the spelling bee now, from competitor to volunteer to manager,” said Loeffler, “I am so incredibly proud and humbled to be leading this organization. My childhood self would have been thrilled to see her dream come true.”
With the memory of her transformative time in the bee, Loeffler works tirelessly to bring this same experience to children around the nation—whether coordinating with TV networks, working with organizers of more than 200 annual regional competitions, or providing more than 20,000 elementary schools with materials needed to launch spelling programs in the classroom.
This hard work bears priceless results, as competitors throughout the years share the impact their involvement in the spelling bee continues to have on their lives.
“I have heard kids describe their wonder-filled appreciation for language, newfound confidence, and success stories as they launch from the bee into their future careers,” said Loeffler. “The Bee dares them to go after the next thing they set their mind toward.”
The annual national competition—held and televised annually the weekend of Memorial Day—captured the interest of more than 7 million viewers last year. Launched in 1925, it stands as the nation’s longest-running educational competition.
“The audience can’t help but hold their breath as these precocious, determined children tackle words of incredible difficulty,” said Loeffler. “These spellers continue to inspire and draw in viewers from all walks of life.”
Loeffler lives in Cincinnati with her husband, Adam Turer, and two children, Caleb and Leonora. She looks forward to the 100th anniversary of Scripps National Bee in 2025, as the once seven-year-old audience member now leads the impactful tradition forward.
“Our vision is to give kids the words they need to shine their light on the world,” said Loeffler. “That inspires my work every day.”
Posted: February 8, 2023