Wildcats take four awards at Spanish Spelling Bee

Spanish 1 student Tiffany Doung placed third, Spanish 2 students Jonathan Faulkner and Raaha Sellamuthu placed first and third, and Spanish 3 student Tadi Zivotic tied with Viera High student Fiona Sun for first place at the annual Brevard County Spanish Spelling Bee held at Space Coast Jr/Sr High School recently.

Zivotic, attributes his success to the fact that he is bilingual, speaking Serbian, and his engagement in Spanish class. 

“Honestly, I feel like I was well prepared because I paid attention in Spanish class and the words came easy to me when minimally practicing with my mom,” he said. 

Spanish 1 and 2 teacher Awilda Marti, Spanish 2 and 3 teacher Mireya Ramos, and Spanish 4 and AP Spanish teacher Alexandra Stewart helped prepare the students. 

“The students were given 100 words to study for their level, and they were given a standard pronunciation guide from the Royal Academy of Spanish to make sure that they said the letters in a uniform manner,” Stewart said. “The kids also practiced a couple of lunches leading up to the Spelling Bee with Mrs. Marti.”

Despite having experience on the stage and being in theater since seventh grade, Zivotic said his main struggle was with anxiety about the unexpected aspects of the spelling bee. 

“I was nervous about the extra words they were going to give if we passed the first 100 words,” he said. “I mainly just practiced with my mom on Monday and Tuesday that week for only 30 minutes. 

Stewart said she is proud of the outcome and believes the students deserve recognition.

“It is hard enough to get on stage with strangers,” Stewart said, “then to spell in your third language, that can be daunting.” 

Stewart, Ramos and Marti said they will prepare differently for next year’s spelling bee.

“We will be adopting the pronunciation guide across all the levels,” Stewart said. “We will definitely talk it up earlier so that we can have some upper levels represented and incorporate spelling into some of our class activities so the kids feel more at ease when the contest comes around again.”

Stewart said it takes more than just being “into” Spanish to place in the Spelling Bee.

“The students who did well enough to earn a medal are students who took extra time to practice at home and in school,” she said. “They are also students who really get how the language works instead of just memorizing things to pass a test.”

Zivotic said he has a passion for Spanish.

“I love learning languages because I explore a different side of me that I never explored before,” he said. “I put this effort in because me being trilingual or knowing multiple languages will help in college admissions and will be helpful for granting me a job.”

Zivotic wants to become a psychiatrist and believes speaking Spanish could help him relate to Spanish-speaking patients. 

“Case in point, our level 3 winner is taking Spanish 4 online so he can be in AP Culture next year, that is someone who is dedicated,” Stewart said.

By Claire King