The Colorado Spanish Spelling Bee

The Colorado Spanish Spelling Bee took place in Boulder on Saturday. Pictured are Telluride Middle School student Nicolas Cubero, winner Elli Ceres and Telluride Intermediate School student Julieta Cubero. With the students is Jorge Garcia, director of the Colorado chapter of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education. (Courtesy photo)

Three young students who attend Telluride schools know how to spell success — in Spanish.

On Saturday, three students from the Telluride Middle and Intermediate Schools traveled to Casey Middle School in Boulder to compete in the Colorado State Spanish Spelling Bee. Two earned a chance to compete at the national level.

According to third grade teacher Susana Garcia Fernández, Nicolas Cubero, Julieta Cubero and Bjorn Cristol withstood the pressure of spelling before a crowd of their peers and supporters to correctly spell word after word.

When the dust settled, Nicolas and Julieta learned that they will travel to Denver in July to compete in the national competition. It will not be their first time, Garcia Fernández said.

“This is the third year we’ve done it,” she said. “We love it.”

Garcia Fernández serves as the students’ chaperone and representative during the contest, advocating for her young charges if she feels there has been a ruling in error.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “And it’s a great experience for the students.”

It comes as little surprise that the three do so well — they’re seasoned veterans. And Garcia Fernández calls the tenacious spellers, “great fighters.” Last year it was Julieta who fought her way to the national competition — last year it was held in San Antonio, Texas — by coming in first at the local competition at the Telluride schools and garnering a third at the state level. This year at the school level, Julieta took first, Nicolas was in second place and Bjorn captured fourth to pace the way to the state competition.

Last weekend in Boulder, Julieta retained her third place standing, while Nicolas captured second in the state. They now have the honor of making the trip to Denver where the contest takes place July 11-14.

The students take Spanish from Vicente Artes Usero (TMS) and Anna Salem (TIS).

Garcia Fernández noted that the students’ families are often not able to send their children out of town for the competitions. That’s where the school comes in, she said.

“I am thankful for the school,” she said, “They always support us with money to pay for the trip.”

Last year’s contest saw the return of reigning champ Maria del Sol Nunez-Pena, 14, of Chaparral, New Mexico, who spelled “anaerobiosis” correctly to win the spelling bee. She beat 42 other contestants from 11 states. Lola Hernandez Mendoza, 12, of Madison, Wisconsin, won second place, while Alejandro de Santis, a seventh-grader at St. Bonaventure Catholic School in Davie, Florida, took third place.

The state contest is sponsored by the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education and according to its website, “is the only professional organization in Colorado at the state level wholly devoted to representing both the interests of emerging bilingual students and the bilingual education professionals who serve them.”

The spelling bee is for students in grades K-8, though only students in grades 4-8 can advance to the nationals. The national bee takes place on the morning of July 13 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver International Airport.