Can you spell “dynasty?” These two can.
Zain Ali Raja is a fifth grade student at Ehrhardt Elementary School and his sister, Mishal, is a seventh grader at Doerre Intermediate. The two don’t have much in common. Mishal enjoys orchestra. Zain prefers basketball. Mishal’s favorite subject is science. Zain’s is math. One thing they do share, though, is a passion for words.
Two years ago, Mishal won the Klein ISD Elementary Spelling Bee as a fifth grader. Last month, Zain followed in her footsteps, taking the title his fifth grade year.
“This is no surprise,” Ehrhardt Assistant Principal Joan Evans said. “When Mishal was in fifth grade and Zain was in third, they were the final two for our school bee, and we actually had to bring them into the office to finish because lunches were starting in the cafeteria.”
The siblings went back and forth, spelling for over 40 rounds that year before Mishal was crowned winner. That was when their parents noticed that their children had a knack for this.
“I really think that passion is partially the secret to their success,” their father, Zulfi, said. “They love words and they make it entertaining for themselves and for each other with a bit of friendly competition and sibling rivalry.”
Although dinner time table talk is often filled with a mini spelling competition, Zain and Mishal are each other’s biggest fans. They have helped each other figure out a strategy that goes beyond memorizing words in order to shake off any pre-bee nerves.
“I’ve learned that it’s important to ask for all of the information about a word, which some kids are afraid to do,” Mishal said. “Information like the origin and definition can help you differentiate between homonyms and spell the word correctly.”
By watching his sister, Zain has also learned spelling bee strategies that work for him.
“It helps to watch the judge’s mouth as they pronounce the word, you might hear one thing but see another” he said. “Asking a lot of questions for clarity can also psych the other spellers out and make them anxious.”
Through countless hours of studying words spellings, origins and definitions, the siblings have grown their vocabulary, their relationship and their own character.
“The desire to achieve comes from within the children themselves, but this is an excellent example of Promise2Purpose in how we challenge each student at their level and provide opportunities to excel beyond the scope of the curriculum,” Evans said.
“The support that they have each received from their peers, teachers, administrators and from the district is incredible,” Zulfi said. “They both feel so proud and motivated to represent Klein ISD.”
In true forever learner fashion, Zain and Mishal each have their eyes set on future spelling bee championships.