Back on stage: 25 students will compete in this year’s in-person state spelling bee - Albuquerque Journal

Back on stage: 25 students will compete in this year’s in-person state spelling bee

From left, Eren Zeynoliv of Manzano Day School (second place), Keith Lee of Albuquerque Academy (first place), and Sophia Zhang of Albuquerque School of Excellence (third place) hold their trophies at the district charter/private/parochial school bee. Because the APS District has so many schools, the non-APS Albuquerque schools grouped together to create their own district called the Albuquerque Multi School District with 15 schools. (Courtesy of Lorette Lambert)

Twenty-five participants.

This is the number of New Mexico spellers who will compete in the New Mexico State Spelling Bee on April 1. The event is sponsored by the Albuquerque Journal and Nusenda Credit Union and will be held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.

Over the course of four months, 243 schools in 23 school districts around the state put on their own qualifying rounds in hopes that their student would make the cut.

After intense competition among the 23 District Bees, 61 District Champions progressed to the online State Qualifying Bee held on Feb. 28.

From left, Sandra Arambula, Gloria Mata and Debra Cushman were the judges for the district bee which included Lordsburg, Animas and Hidalgo County. (Courtesy of Pamela Chavez)

This is where top champions ranging from fourth through eighth grade successfully spelled words such hauberk, gudgeon and contemporaneous.

According to Pamela Chavez, New Mexico’s coordinator, the 25 champions will get one month to study the 28-page “Words of Champions” and participate in the state bee. The winner will go on to represent the state at the 2023 Scripps National Spelling Bee on May 29-June. 2, in Washington, D.C.

“It takes a lot of hard work to get to this point,” Chavez says. “The teachers and the coordinators in every location squeeze in the time to get these children ready.”

This year’s event will be in person, which marks the first time it will be held with an audience since before 2020.

“Last year, everything was online,” Chavez says. “We had about 54 district winners from around the state. It was a big state bee for us.”

Chavez says the school bees were held in the fall of 2022 and all the organizers hustled to get them done before winter break.

“It didn’t work out that way,” Chavez says. “Some didn’t have the means to get it done in time. On Acoma Pueblo, there was a water break and they had to postpone. When I read about what’s happening in the state, there are issues like power plant and fires that hinder the access for these students. All of the events impact whether these school bees can be held. We have to remain as flexible as we can because New Mexico is such a rural state.”

There will be a new winner that will represent New Mexico this year.

Garrick Tam

Last year’s champ, Garrick Tam, aged out of the competition.

As an eighth-grader at Cleveland Middle School in 2022, Tam worked his way through a list of 25 words online before being crowned the winner.

In the months prior to the competition, Tam often found himself studying for the competition. This meant an additional three hours of school time to prepare for the competition.

“Competing was less stressful because we weren’t up on a stage in front of an audience,” Tam says.

The National Spelling Bee began in 1925 when nine newspapers joined together to host a spelling bee. Nearly a century later, their literacy effort would reach 11 million students each year.

Albuquerque has a long-standing history with the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Albuquerque listed as a partner in 1949, and in 1950 the Albuquerque Tribune was listed with the speller Anavi Martinez.

The Albuquerque Journal has been a title sponsor since 2008, when the Albuquerque Tribune shuttered.

According to Scripps, this year’s national bee will be overseen by Corrie Loeffler, who is a longtime Scripps National Spelling Bee executive and three-time national competitor.

She served on the Scripps National Spelling Bee staff for 16 years, where she led the development of all educational and contest materials for the storied academic competition across the school, regional and national levels.

Loeffler competed at the national level in 1994, 1995 and 1996 representing Merced County, California.

“This program opened my eyes to the world when I was young and taught me how big I could dream,” Loeffler says. “I was a speller, then a volunteer, then joined the Scripps National Spelling Bee team and have worked over the years to evolve the national competition. I have learned from everyone I’ve worked with, and in many ways, I have been studying my whole life for the bee. I am humbled to lead this program as it teaches new generations of spellers to dream big.”

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