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May 7, 2013 > Spelling Bee, deaf style

Spelling Bee, deaf style

By Miriam G. Mazliach

It was a morning of firsts as a group of young students at the California School for the Deaf (CSD), participated in the school's inaugural Elementary Spelling Bee on April 26. An excited and packed audience of parents, teachers and students filled Klopping Theatre.

According to parent Elvis Zornoza, APTC (Association of Parents, Teachers and Counselors), considered the idea at a general meeting and Elementary Principal Adele Ann Eberwein expressed approval and enthusiasm for its immediate implementation. APTC approved her request.

Participating students represented grades first to fifth. Words assigned were appropriate to specific grade levels. As each student took his/her turn, they stepped forward; the coordinator signed a word in American Sign Language (ASL), using a representative symbol or phrase. In this unique Spelling Bee, contestants were required to fingerspell - form the shape of the letters by hand - the word, letter by letter. Current research shows that early exposure to fingerspelling helps deaf children become better readers and gain a larger vocabulary.

If a competitor could not understand the word clue or concept, they would ask the coordinator to provide a definition for clarity.

After each answer, the audience showed support by waving a hand in the air, a "one tree shake."

Following eight rounds, the winners were:
1st Place: Reza Mosher - 4th grade
2nd Place: Matthew Aboudi - 5th grade
3rd Place: Chang-May Tan - 2nd grade

The top three competitors received books and gift certificates to Target. Runner-up contestants received $15 gift certificates for their participation and effort.

Summing up the morning's activity, Principal Eberwein commented, "Congrats! I'm very proud of all these students. They all learned many words and how to stand up here [on stage] and present them, showing participation and commitment. Thanks to APTC, the parents who thought up this idea of seeing new events here, and who were supportive of doing this."

For more information about California School for the Deaf, visit

Photo Caption: Students (L to R): Chang-May Tan, Reza Mosher and Matthew Aboudi are congratulated by the teacher!

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