And the challenges were fierce. Consider the longest word, “ininterrumpidamente,” meaning without interruption. That was spelled correctly, while “respeto” tripped up several students because they added a “c” from the English word “respect.”
District 3 followed the rules of the national bee with a “pronouncer,” Ileana Infante from Hunter College, and a panel of judges that included a state Regent, three administrators and a student from nearby MS 247, another dual language school.
“So that competitors would feel a sense of formality and seriousness, we invited a group of MS 247 students to welcome and register the competitors,” said Jacqueline Morison, the dual language bilingual coordinator at PS 87 and the spelling bee’s organizer.
With excitement high and an undercurrent of tension among parents as well as students, the spelling bee began. Spellers from each school — PS 75, PS 84, PS 87, PS 145, PS 163, PS 165 and PS 180 — listened to the word, and some asked the pronouncer to repeat the word or use it in a sentence before writing the word on a slate to help visualize it. Participants repeated the word, spelled it (including accents) and then repeated it again.
After four exciting rounds and 220 word challenges, the 10 students still standing were declared the winners.
“This is not just about spelling. We’re also celebrating the hard work these children put in throughout the year to prepare for today,” said 3rd-grade teacher Adriana Peña, who teaches in both English and Spanish.
Parent Sara Bomim, whose two sons have competed in the spelling bees, also spoke about the long hours it takes to prepare.
A staunch supporter of dual language schools, Bomim said children going into a dual language program in kindergarten “don’t know there’s any other way to learn.”