Santa Fe Elementary fourth grader Fernando Castañeda will be representing Cleburne at the Region XI Spanish Spelling Bee for the second consecutive year as the district champion.
Castañeda was among the 12 campus finalists from C.C. Cooke, Irving, Santa Fe and Smith Middle School who competed at the district contest on February 15. Placing second place to join Castañeda at the March 24 Region 11 Spanish spelling challenge is Smith sixth grader Andre Duarte.
Castañeda, who finished third at the 2022 region competition, retained his crown as Cleburne’s 2023 champion in spelling antepenúltima (antepenultimate in English) in the 17th round.
“I studied really hard because I wanted to win,” said the ten-year-old. “I’m happy to be going to the regional contest again.”
The Spanish Spelling Bee is conducted much like its English counterpart. In the Spanish competition, guidelines give a student the option of using a small handheld whiteboard to write down the word once it has been given to them by the pronouncer. The only purpose of this is to help the contestant visualize the word before spelling it orally.
While there is one additional letter in the Spanish alphabet, the major difference between the two competitions is the Spanish Spelling Bee requires contestants to include the accent and dieresis marks on letters within the word they may be spelling. They must also clarify if a letter should be capitalized.
Among the contestants competing at the district level was Irving campus champion, fifth grader Naya Williams. She has been a member of the Two-Way Dual Language program since the first grade, when it was implemented at the Irving campus. Williams’ home language is English; as a student in Two-Way Dual Language, she is learning her core subjects in both English and Spanish.
“She was our only native English speaker competing this year—and I believe the first of more to come,” Dr. Christy Burton, director of World Languages said. “Our goal in engaging students in Two-Way Dual Language is bilingualism and biliteracy. To see Naya have that strong of a level of skills and knowledge is very impressive. This is not something she has learned in a year, and reflects good word study.”
“We have seen our emerging bilingual students qualify for the Area 24 Spelling Bee, as campus champions,” Burton said. “They are competing in their second language—and now we see that occurring with a contestant in our Spanish Spelling Bee. That is wonderful—and a reflection of how our students are learning to speak, read and write in two languages."