9 Verde Valley schools send spelling champions to county’s 71st annual bee

Cottonwood Elementary School fifth-grader Jose Esquer, above center, will compete at the Yavapai County Spelling Bee on Feb. 24 at Camp Verde Unified School District’s Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts. Also pictured with Jose are third graders Stephanie Espinosa and Wilson Curiales. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Cottonwood Elementary School fifth-grader Jose Esquer, above center, will compete at the Yavapai County Spelling Bee on Feb. 24 at Camp Verde Unified School District’s Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts. Also pictured with Jose are third graders Stephanie Espinosa and Wilson Curiales. (Photo by Bill Helm)

VERDE VALLEY –One day, he hopes to play professional soccer, just like Cristiano Ronaldo. But when he isn’t dribbling his soccer ball up and down the field, he also likes to play basketball with his brother.

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Camp Verde Elementary School fifth-grader Matthew Piper will compete at the Yavapai County Spelling Bee on Feb. 24 at Camp Verde Unified School District’s Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts. (Photo by Bill Helm)

Matthew Piper isn’t all about sports. Actually, the young man from Camp Verde is also something of a speller.

Meet the rest of the 2017 Verde Valley all-area spelling team

Isabell Allen

Camp Verde American Heritage Academy

Sixth grade, age 11

Correctly spelled the word diligent

How did you prepare for the school bee? “All I did was study. I practiced a lot. I will do the same for the county bee.”

How do you feel about winning the school spelling bee? “That I’m okay at spelling. And I won’t be sad if I get out because I made it to the country spelling bee.”

Favorite subject: math

Favorite food: chicken piccata. “I made it one time. My mom told me the directions. It turned out okay.”

Madison Banks

Mountain View Preparatory, Cottonwood

Eighth grade, age 14

Correctly spelled the word avian

How did you prepare for the school bee? “I had my sister help me with practicing. I was really surprised. I was like ‘wow.’”

Is this the first time you competed in the school’s spelling bee? “I have competed in the spelling bee each year since first grade. But not in the fifth grade.”

Favorite subject: history

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I used to want to be a lawyer or a teacher. But now I want to be a photographer. I also kind of want to be a detective.”

Abbie Booth

Clarkdale-Jerome School

Seventh grade, age 13

Correctly spelled the word insulin

Previous spelling bee competition: Abbie is now a three-time spelling bee winner. Also won in third and sixth grades.

How did you prepare for the school bee? “I’ve read a lot of books. So that helps me. I read at a pretty high level. I like books where society is kind of messed up. Like ‘Hunger Games.’”

What are your hobbies: “My life is kind of absorbed by sports.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? Wants to be a psychologist, “like our counselor. I want to be like her.”

Angel Perez

Cottonwood Middle School

Sixth grade, age 12

Correctly spelled the word zodiac

How did you prepare for the school bee? “I went over the columns five times. My dad and mom said them out loud to me. And then I spelled them.”

Favorite subject: science.

What do you want to be when you grow up? “In parts of my life, I want to be a surgeon. In other parts, an explorer and a you-tuber.”

Natalie Stafford

Cottonwood American Heritage Academy

Sixth grade, age 11

Correctly spelled the word microscope

How do you feel about winning the school spelling bee? “I was very happy, very excited. It’s a big accomplishment for me.”

Favorite subject: “Either art or reading.”

What do you want to be when you grow up? “I would like to be an interior designer, some sort of artist. I think it would be fun to design different houses.”

Two years ago, Matthew finished second in his school’s spelling bee. Then a third grade student at Mountain View Preparatory Academy in Cottonwood, Matthew doesn’t remember the word that kept him from the school’s title.

But this time, a new word, and a new school for Matthew, who finished first in Camp Verde Elementary School’s annual spelling bee.

Now 10, the fifth grader correctly spelled the word peculiar, and will represent his school at the county’s 71st annual spelling bee, to be held Friday, Feb. 24 at the Camp Verde Unified School District’s Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts.

And he can hardly wait.

“Now I’m excited and anxious at school,” Matthew says. “I always look at the calendar to see how many days away it is.”

Just shy of seven days away, Mathew says he plans to study for the county bee pretty much the same way he studied for the school bee. With a little help from his family.

“My mother would look up words and she’d ask me how to spell them,” Matthew says of how he prepared for the school bee. A young man of faith – and of family values, Matthew says when he won the school’s spelling bee, he could hardly wait to get home, because he “was excited to see my family’s reactions.”

“I am happy that God has presented this opportunity to me,” Matthew says. “My family motivated me to succeed. I don’t know if I could have done it without them.”

Matthew is one of 10 Verde Valley students who won first place in their school’s spelling bees. Nine will advance to the county bee, as Oak Creek School’s Aiden Rose will be on a special field trip to California with his school’s fifth- and sixth-grade classes and will not be able to attend the competition.

For Aiden, just like with Matthew, he finished second two years ago. But this year, the time was right for the 10-year-old fifth grader at the Cornville school.

“I was really surprised. It was me and a sixth grader,” Aiden says. “We kept getting our words right. She finally missed one and I won the spelling bee.” Aiden correctly spelled the word cornet to win his school’s bee this year. Also like Matthew, Aiden enjoys soccer. But when Aiden grows up, he wants to be a chemist. “Or maybe become a chemistry teacher.”

“I would like to go to college and get my doctorate in chemistry,” Aiden says.

Beaver Creek School’s representative at the county bee will be seventh grader Makena Amis, who correctly spelled the word varsity.

A confident young woman, Makena says she “wasn’t really shocked” that she won the school bee.

“It was fun to be in it,” Makena says. “I had my friends help me by saying words and I would spell them.”

Not yet looking at her career options, Makena does say that she cannot imagine her life without art.

The 12-year-old is a landscape painter who uses oils as her medium. She also draws animals.

Speaking of animals, Camp Verde Middle School’s Daniela Vega correctly spelled jackrabbit to win her school’s spelling bee.

Fluent in both English and Spanish, the 13-year-old eighth grader says that jackrabbit translates to conejo in Spanish.

And her dog is named Duquesa – which translates to English as Dutchess.

A lover of animals, Daniela says she wants to become a veterinarian when she grows up.

“Or a lawyer,” she says. “I love animals, but I also love to be right.”

Daniela admits to being surprised when she won the school’s bee.

“I was going against a lot really good spellers,” Daniela says. “It’s a pretty big deal to me.”

How will she practice for the county bee? “Probably do the same thing, but up the hardness of the words,” Daniela says. “After all, it’s the county spelling bee.”

At Cottonwood Elementary School, maybe it’s not enough for Jose Esquer that he won his school’s spelling bee.

Jose, a fifth grader, is already working on his third language.

Fluent in both English and Spanish, the 10-year-old can say “It’s very nice to meet you” in Mandarin Chinese.

For some, mathematics are a foreign language. If that’s the case, then maybe Jose can count math as another language he is mastering.

“It’s really fun for me, multiplying the decimals,” Jose says. “I got 10 out of 10 today.”

According to Laura Mineer, Cottonwood Elementary School’s spelling bee coordinator, Jose has “always been a good student, always gets good grades. And he’s a very polite young man.”

When he isn’t in class, Jose is in another class – the third grade class. Some days, Jose reads to the school’s third graders.

Jose correctly spelled the word marionette to advance to the county bee.

“That’s the one word I studied in class,” he says.

The Phillip England Center for the Performing Arts is located at 210 Camp Lincoln Road in Camp Verde. The event will begin at 10:45 a.m. with a preliminary round, followed by lunch at 11:45 a.m. The competition will begin at 12:30 p.m.

Call Camp Verde Unified School District at 928-567-8000 for more information.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42 and on Facebook at @CampVerdeBugle

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