McKinney ISD will host its first districtwide Spanish spelling bee this week.

Eleven students from Finch and Caldwell elementary schools, which are part of the district’s dual-language program, will gather in the district’s Central Administration Building at 5 p.m. Jan. 20 for the competition.

Zabdi Gonzalez, senior director of English learner support, said this was a special moment and a “big step” for the district.

“Spanish is being valued in our district,” Gonzalez said. “We’re elevating both languages. It truly goes hand in hand with what we’re trying to promote.”

The students in grades 3 through 5 will verbally wrestle with words such as aizoáceo (aizoaceous), escenificación (staging) and organogénesis (organogenesis). Competitors had to study and memorize the spellings of 1,400 Spanish words for this occasion.

The bee is open to any student in MISD who speaks Spanish. This year, all participants were part of the district’s dual-language program, which joins native English speakers and native Spanish speakers in a two-way immersion class. One of the students in this year’s bee is not a native Spanish speaker.

The district’s top two winners will compete at a regional Spanish spelling bee Feb. 24, Gonzalez said. The winners of the regional competition—which is only in its third year—will compete at the national level in July.

MISD’s goal, Gonzalez said, is to celebrate the “value in diversity” and the district’s support for students and bilingual staff.

Gonzalez said this moment will likely be special for parents, too.

“For a lot of our parents, whose children are competing, they don’t speak English,” Gonzalez said. “So this will be the first time where they will be able to see their child in an event where they actually understand.”

Gonzalez said the Spanish spelling bee is a silver lining for her department in such a turbulent time.

“I mean, we’re just grateful. ... With everything happening, it’s little things like this that keep us going.”