Yasemin Enami wins county spelling bee for the second time


For the second year in a row, Yasemin Enami, a seventh-grader at Valencia Middle School, won first place in the Valencia County Spelling Bee, earning her a second chance to compete at the state level.

Deborah Fox-News-Bulletin photo: Valencia County Spelling Bee winners, from left, are third-place winner Forest Good, a Katherine Gallegos sixth-grader; second-place winner William Ulbricht, a Belen Family School sixth-grader; and first-place winner Yasemin Enami, a Valencia Middle School seventh-grader.

“I’m really happy,” Enami said. “I’m going to study really hard so I can get past state.”

“We’re so excited that she was able to make it one more time,” said her mother, Leslie Rojas.

Second place went to William Ulbricht, a sixth-grader at Belen Family School; and Forest Good, a sixth-grader at Katherine Gallegos Elementary in Los Lunas, took third place.

“It feels great that I passed and am going on to state,” Good said.

Both Ulbricht and Good have competed in district spelling bees once before, but Ulbricht already has his sights on nationals.

“I’m looking forward to going to nationals because we’re going to Washington, D.C.,” Ulbricht said.

This year, something new was added to the spelling bee. Mixed in with spelling rounds were vocabulary rounds. Spellers were given a choice between two possible definitions of a word and had to choose the correct meaning of the word.

“It is new, it is different, change is always new, but I think it can only help them,” said Margaret Mikelson, Belen spelling bee coordinator. “Instead of just learning to spell, they’ll actually know what it means.”

“The Scripps National Spelling Bee added vocabulary to the national bee for the first time last year,” said Karen Kehe, New Mexico Spelling Bee coordinator. “Vocabulary was added because Scripps National Spelling Bee strongly believes that spellers should know the meaning of words as well as how they are spelled.”

The state added vocabulary rounds so students will be prepared for nationals. Students must now study the spelling of words as well as their definitions.

“There is different feelings about it,” said Michelle Gammill, Los Lunas Schools district spelling bee coordinator. “Some people think a spelling bee should be all about spelling, but I know that a lot of the teachers and principals are saying it is more valuable to them if the kids also have to learn the meanings of the words,”

Geneva T. Nixon, Belen Consolidated Schools director of curriculum and instruction, encouraged the winners to “Study hard, study all of the words and do the vocabulary, because the state put a lot of emphasis on it this year.”

The winning word at the county bee was “trajectory,” the curved path along which something, such as a rocket moves through the air or through space, according to the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary.

One of Enami’s strategies for spelling correctly is to connect something to the word that will help her remember how to spell it, she said.

“Me and my sister (Nicole) work together,” Enami said. “She tests me, and if I spell it wrong, then we find the definition.”

For Ulbricht, his study technique involves a computer as well as his little sister, he said.

“I search in the definition and hear how it’s really sounded out, and then I see how it’s spelled,” Ulbricht said.

“You should have somebody help you with the pronunciations,” Good said. “So when you get to the actual bee, it won’t be like you never heard it before.”

The Belen High School auditorium was nearly full with parents and siblings there to support the spellers. All eyes were on the stage as the students went before the pronouncer and panel of judges.

For every word Enami was given, she asked what is the word’s origin, its definition, “are there any homonyms,” and “Would you use the word in a sentence?”

“The students that I have seen here that do well are usually the ones who will ask for more information,” Mikelson said. “It gives them more time to absorb it and think about it.”

She advises spellers to ask at least one of the questions for every word because it can help them calm down and offer them time to think.

The New Mexico Spelling Bee is scheduled for 9 a.m., Saturday, March 22, at Sandia Preparatory School in Albuquerque. It is being sponsored again by the Albuquerque Journal and Newspapers in Education.

-- Email the author at dfox@news-bulletin.com.