2021 District Spelling Bee

Sandia Vista Student Wins Online District/County Spelling Bee
Posted on 01/28/2021

Even a global pandemic couldn’t dampen one of the most cherished traditions in American education and in schools in Rio Rancho and Sandoval County – the school spelling bee.

Esja ShivashankarIn a competition conducted entirely online through written tests, Sandia Vista Elementary fourth grader Esha Shivashankar came out on top.  She correctly spelled 37 of 40 words in the very challenging final round test to earn the Rio Rancho / Sandoval County District Spelling Bee (RRSCB) title.  To win, Shivashankar – also a finalist last year -- had to spell double the number of words as the winners of last year’s oral district bee. 

Lauryn McKeeShivashankar is one of three spellers who earned the right to represent Rio Rancho and Sandoval County at the New Mexico State Spelling Bee in March.  Joining her at the state competition will be runner-up Lauryn McKee (top right), a 7th grader at Mountain View Middle School (and last year’s fourth place finisher), and Miquela Yardman (bottom right), an 8th grader at Rio Rancho Middle School.  To make the state competition, spellers had to achieve a score of 27 or higher on the very difficult 40-word test.

Miquela Yardman

Rio Rancho students were invited to participate in the online competition earlier this school year, with parents signing up their spellers on an online testing platform provided by the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  About 150 students from Rio Rancho’s 16 elementary and middle schools signed up, with 114 spellers eventually competing in school-level spelling bees.  Two Sandoval County schools – Santo Domingo Elementary and Middle School, and the Sandoval Academy of Bilingual Education – held their own school eliminations to qualify spellers for the district bee, which this year included all eligible schools from Sandoval County. 

 Thirty-eight school bee champions and runners-up qualified for the district/county level spelling bee. Of those, thirty-five took the tough 20-word first round district test, which narrowed the field to 10 finalists.  On January 26, the finalists had 40 minutes to complete the 40-word final round test, a test that included head-scratching words like stolkjaerre and grandiloquent that would easily stump most adults.  A panel of adjudicators monitored the finalists via videoconferencing as they took the test. 

In addition to state qualifiers Shivashankar, McKee, and Yardman, the finalists were: Bruce Lial, 4th grader, Ernest Stapleton Elementary School; Alannah McNamara, 4th grader, Sandia Vista Elementary School; William McNamara, 6th grader, Rio Rancho Cyber Academy; Victoria Morgan, 6th grader, Mountain View Middle School; Pramit Poudel, 6th grader, Lincoln Middle School; Tyeisha Quintana, 8th grader, Santo Domingo Middle School; and Rewa Singh, 3rd grader, Maggie Cordova Elementary School.

The National Spelling Bee’s online test platform is similar to one used at the national competition, where the first round is conducted as a written test.  Students can hear the word being pronounced and can view the word’s definition, part of speech, and language of origin and a sentence using the word.  They then have to type in the correct spelling of the word.  The pronouncer is Dr. Jacques Baily, the National Spelling Bee’s longtime pronouncer and the 1980 National Spelling Bee champion.  The program scores the test and provides each speller with his/her score. Parents can download a full score report after access to the test closes. 

This was Rio Rancho Public Schools’ 27th consecutive spelling bee, continuing a grand tradition going back centuries.  From America’s earliest days, spellers have gathered in homes, one-room schoolhouses, school auditoriums, and the gigantic stage at the National Spelling Bee, holding wars of words as fiercely contested as any gridiron game.  The virtual format made it possible for those students with a passion for spelling to explore the wonder of words and display their spelling skills even in this pandemic year.  RRPS looks forward to resuming live spelling spelling bees next school year.