Meet Filipino-American Kirsten Santos, the 8-year-old winner of the 2019 National Spanish Spelling Bee in Denver, Colorado.
The young national champion was among the 40 students from 15 states and the District of Columbia who competed in the 9th Annual National Spanish Spelling Bee of the Colorado Association for Bilingual Education held on July 13. It was Kirsten’s first time to join a national spelling competition.
Kirsten Santos is the youngest among the 9 winners of the spelling contest, some three grade levels below her co-champions. Kirsten recently wrapped up her 3rd grade studies at the International Leadership of Texas Katy Charter School K-8 which uses a trilingual curriculum.
“She is very intrinsically motivated, and I have never seen her unhappy. This positive attitude you see, it’s always there. It’s always like that. She just stands out,” said Dr. Sheri Hawthorn, principal of Texas Katy Charter School, in a Chron report.
The child of immigrant parents from the Philippines, 4th grader Kirsten fluently speaks Tagalog, English, Mandarin, and Spanish. Kirsten had to learn over 60,000 Spanish words to prepare for the spelling competition, studying the Spanish dictionary for two hours daily, according to a KHOU11 TV report about Santos.
Kirsten’s parents, physical therapist Levi Santos and nurse Vanessa Chiong, shared how their daughter was born in Laredo, Texas and began learning Japanese, French and Chinese when she was 2 years old.
Kirsten said winning the contest “felt great!” and that she’s proud of being able to spell the hardest word she’s ever had to spell during the Spelling Bee’s final round.
“Anafilaxia. A-N-A-F-I-L-A-X-I-A,” Kirsten said, using a scrap of paper to work out the phonetics. “Anafilaxia. Since it was my winning word, I had to observe it carefully. The only tricky letter I found there was the X. I had to listen to the separation of the X. I largely depended on the oracíon (parts of speech).”
“I gave all I got in the competition and finally,” Kirsten Santos said in her TV interview.
The Spanish Spelling Bee champion says her language skills will be useful when she becomes a neurosurgeon, “I could study the brain and do surgeries. I could treat diseases and I could find a cure for a disease that was not invented yet.”
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