The Spring ISD Multilingual Department on Saturday hosted the 6th Annual Spring ISD Spanish Spelling Bee, which gave students the opportunity to learn and apply new vocabulary, increase their speaking skills, develop better language pronunciation, and improve overall communication abilities.
One student from each participating elementary and middle school advanced from their campus competitions to participate in the districtwide finals, held in Dekaney High School’s Star Theater.
“It was an exciting morning,” said Spring ISD Superintendent Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “It was so good to see so many of our students here – both elementary and middle school – competing, and their families here to cheer them on.”
The contest welcomed students in grades 4-8, competing together in a single spelling bee event for the districtwide finals. After one practice round and seven official rounds of competition, one elementary first place winner and one secondary first place winner were ultimately named.
The secondary winner was Padme Cepeda, a seventh grader at Dueitt Middle School, who earned this year’s top spot after successfully spelling the word “catarsis” – the Spanish equivalent of the English word “catharsis” – in the final round. The winner for grades 4-5 was Booker Elementary School fifth grader Sara Jurado, whose final word was “intuición.”
Cepeda was originally the alternate for her campus, and found out only the day before the district contest that she would be stepping in and representing Duitt in the competition. Cepeda, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico last August, said she was definitely nervous, and spent much of Friday and Friday night studying and reviewing words ahead of Saturday’s event.
Cepeda, who understands spoken English well but is still getting comfortable speaking it in conversation, said through a translator that she felt “very proud” of her accomplishment, which she said was “one of the great things that has happened to her” since her arrival in the U.S.
“She was of course nervous, because she always considered herself the alternate, and she had no idea she was going to be coming to the actual competition,” said Lettie Houck, the district’s director of multilingual programs. “So she was nervous, but she did pull through!”
Jurado, meanwhile, was thrilled to be making her very first appearance at the district event, and afterward thanked her campus sponsor, Karla Villela, for supporting and encouraging her while she was preparing. According to her mother, Jurado practiced day and night in the weeks leading up to the competition, even enlisting friends at Booker to help her practice during recess at school.
“I’m so shocked and so happy at the same time,” said Jurado after the awards ceremony. She went on to say that, in addition to continuing with Spanish and English, she would next like to learn French.
As the district’s official secondary winner, Cepeda now qualifies to compete in this year’s National Spanish Spelling Bee, taking place June 30 and July 1 in El Paso.
“We’re very, very proud to have our children participate in this,” said Houck, who added that many Spring ISD parents also appreciated seeing their family’s native language and culture being highlighted through the district’s Spanish Spelling Bee.
“Being bilingual, biliterate and bicultural is not just being able to communicate in another language,” Houck added, “but it opens up a broader view to the world, we’ve always said, through other cultures.”
The superintendent also emphasized that theme – preserving students’ cultural heritage while also equipping them with the language tools needed for success in school – as an important one for Spring ISD, a district that serves many Hispanic families and Spanish-speaking students.
“Our goal for our students is to be bilingual and biliterate, and that’s the education that they’re receiving here,” Hinojosa said, “and so I want them to take it all in, because at the end of the day, that’s one thing that no one can ever take away from you – your education – and your education is what will open doors for you in the future.”