Orange Unified promotes bilingual education with Spanish Spelling Bee

To underscore the value of bilingualism, including the lifelong opportunities that come with speaking more than one language, the Orange Unified School District recently held its second annual Spanish Spelling Bee.

Sixty contestants from OUSD’s four comprehensive high schools competed in the event, spelling close to 700 Spanish words in the district’s board room on Saturday, May 19.

Spanish Spelling Bee winners

Benjamin Martinez of Villa Park High (center) earned first place in Orange Unified’s second annual Spanish Spelling Bee on May 19. Stephanie Jimenez of El Modena High (left) took second place and Villa Park’s Kim Xu placed third.

When it was over, Benjamin Martinez of Villa Park High clinched first place by correctly sequencing the letters in “psicicultura,” which refers to the controlled breeding of fish. (Adding to the degree of difficulty, we’re told the “p” is silent.) El Modena High’s Stephanie Jimenez took second place and Villa Park’s Kim Xu finished third.

“Competing with other schools was such a great experience,” Martinez said afterward.

Brenda Ochoa, the world languages department chair at Villa Park, said the idea for the contest was sparked by Villa Park’s 2016 participation in a similar event hosted by California Baptist University, which invited schools in or near the Inland Empire. Ochoa coordinated Orange Unified’s bee with fellow Spanish teachers Nora Alvarez of Canyon High School, Tracey Awwad and Luz Pineda of Orange High School, and Corey Schuld from El Modena.

Orange administrators also assisted, as did parents and community members.

“The Spanish Spelling Bee gives students the opportunity to learn and apply new vocabulary and strengthens speaking, pronunciation and communication skills in Spanish,” Ochoa told the OCDE Newsroom. “It was amazing seeing the parents hold their breath each time their son or daughter was up at the podium and hearing their cheers at the end of each round. The response from the students is unanimously positive and they overwhelmingly expressed their desire to participate again.”

Speaking of which, the organizing committee is planning to invite schools from other districts to future bees and would like to ultimately host a national contest.