Kids spell success

Spelling bee contestants use computers for first time

Student Haley Boaz put her spelling skills to the test Jan. 23 during the preliminary round of the 2019 San Benito County Spelling Bee held at Ladd Lane Elementary School.

For the first time in its storied history, the 2019 San Benito County Spelling Bee had its more than 150 student participants type their answers using a computer keyboard into a Google electronic document rather than writing them with pencil on paper.

“We are switching it up this year with the blessing from the state,” said spelling bee organizer Colleen Myers. She said state officials “are going to watch and see how it goes for us and may implement it at their level if all goes well.”

Myers, county schools’ coordinator of instructional support and a self-described “technology junkie,” added that each student had the option to go digital or stick with handwritten answers to the spelling words thrown at them during the two-day preliminary rounds Jan. 23-24 at Ladd Lane Elementary School. A competitor could start on the Chromebook but switch to paper if they don’t feel comfortable using the keyboard, Myers added.

While it seems natural to shift the bee to the digital era, Myers said it was no easy task for her staff to work out the kinks. She credited the Hollister School District IT Department for helping to set up the new computer-based format.

“The (first) challenge was turning off the spell-check feature on each of the computers. We were able to do that, but Google also indicates a misspelled word with a red line, so we also had to disable that feature in each Chromebook,” Myers said.

A computer program will also allow student participants—an estimated 160 total (80 each day)—along with their families, to know right away how they scored. The top 20 advance to the championship rounds Feb. 6-7. The previous record number of competitors was 130, according to Myers.

“We used to have a team of people grade the handwritten answers for each student later that same night,” said Myers, a former kindergarten teacher. “This way we don’t have to incorrectly ding someone if a ‘d’ looks like a ‘j’ or something of that nature based on their handwriting.”

The annual bee, which is open to all county students whether attending public or private schools, is broken into two grade-level divisions, with the fourth- through sixth-graders opening up the competition Wednesday and the seventh and eighth graders competing the following night.

Each student registered the day of the competition and then logged on to their Chromebook using their name, grade and school before the 50 spelling words were read off. The facilitator first read the word by itself and then used each in a sentence.

“I’ll know the top 20 that second so I can announce them right away,” Myers said.

In the championship round, there will be only one winner in each grade level division who advances to the statewide spelling bee. They also receive a new iPad from Hollister Rotary and an all-expenses paid trip to the state bee. The younger division winner heads to San Joaquin  County for the state prelims, while the middle school county champion goes to Marin.

“It’s exciting not only to see the kids do well but also having the kids come together from all the different public and private schools within San Benito County,” Myers said.

The spelling bee kicks off a number of county-wide events organized by the SBCOE including:

  • Feb. 13, 5-7pm, County Arts Showcase, at the Veterans Memorial Building;
  • March 12, 7pm, County Music Festival, at San Benito High School; and
  • March 21, 2-7pm, STEAM Fair, at the Veterans Memorial Building.

2019 Spelling Bee Preliminary Finalists

Advance to the Feb. 6-7 County Finals

Elementary Division (4th-6th grade)

Evie Gonzalez, 6th grade, Navigator

Baron Recht. 6th grade, Tres Pinos

Brooklynn Goldstone, 6th grade, AAA

Emilia Rovella, 5th grade, Southside

Annie Cullumber, 5th grade, Ladd Lane

Quinton Zanger, 6th grade, Spring Grove

Tyler Crosby, 6th grade, Spring Grove

Valeria Esqueda, 6th grade, Spring Grove

Alexander Brister, 6th grade, Spring Grove

Maximus Madrigal, 4th grade, Southside

Aryanna McClelland, 5th grade, Tres Pinos

Daniela Orsetti, 5th grade, Southside

Morgan Ruiz, 4th grade, San Juan

Isabella Nicholson, 4th grade, Aromas

Madeline Rosa, 6th grade, Southside

Kathy Miramontes, 5th grade, Jefferson

Levi Tran, 4th grade, San Juan

Miranda Navarro, 4th grade, Spring Grove

Sophia Madrigal, 4th grade, Southside

Adeline Mellow, 5th grade, Sacred Heart

Anthony Medrano, 6th grade, Navigator

Junior High Division

Rasmeet Brar, 7th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Ava Thatcher, 8th grade, Spring Grove

Max Westphal, 7th grade, Hollister Dual Language Academy

Cassie Rayas, 8th grade, Hollister Dual Language Academy

Deepinder Mann, 7th grade, Rancho San Justo

Donnobhain Haertel, 8th grade, Spring Grove

Emmia Rivera, 8th grade, Hollister Dual Language Academy

Aarush Jagtap, 8th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Madison Statua, 8th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Luis Silva, 8th grade, Rancho San Justo

Isabela Fernandez, 8th grade, Spring Grove

julian Martinez, 8th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Ignacio Velazquez, 8th grade, Hollister Dual Language Academy

Stephanie Miramontes, 7th grade, Jefferson

Fabiola Gonzalez, 7th grade, Rancho San Justo

Hailey Garcia, 7th grade, Aromas

Rosa Miramontes, 7th grade, Jefferson

Brandon Gatson, 8th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Dafny Senties, 7th grade, Aromas

Rasmeet Brar, 7th grade, Accelerated Achievement Academy

Ava Thatcher, 8th grade, Spring Grove

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