Odessa Christian student heads for national spelling bee

Odessa Christian School fifth-grader Jaynard Quiray has written his ticket to the Scripps National Spelling Bee with a win at the Ector County ISD Regional Spelling Bee Thursday at the Odessa High School Performing Arts Center.

The winning word was erubescent, which means becoming red or reddish; blushing.

There were nine students who competed in the 2024 Regional Spelling Bee. Spellers ranged from third through eighth grade.

The pronouncer was Shijay Sivakumar, a sophomore at OHS. Sivakumar is no stranger to Spelling Bees. In addition to winning three regional bees, he also placed 9th at the 2022 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Officials at the regional bee were Rocky Phillips, Cathy McLeod, and Sandra Benavidez, reading coaches with ECISD.

Quiray said he has been in spelling bees for many years, but he was quite nervous for this one. He studied three months for the bee. Rhonda Haley tutored him.

Quiray’s parents are Jaylyn Butac and Bernard Quiray. His hobbies are studying and preparing for spelling bees, and reading.

Nadia Valenzuela, Quiray’s English language arts teacher, and Kathy Olliff, who works in the front office at Odessa Christian, ran spelling practice once a week.

Valenzuela said even though Haley has moved away, she helped Quiray prepare.

“He’s just stout academically, obviously. He’s just a phenomenal kid. He’s very well liked. He’s very sweet. He’s very humble,” Valenzuela said. “I was so happy for him to win. He worked hard.”

Quiray, 10, said he wants to be a spelling teacher or a computer science tech when he grows up.

When he won, Quiray said it was unexpected and he thought someone else would win.

“I thought it would never happen,” he said.

Valenzuela said Quiray was waiting to tell his parents he won until they got home Thursday.

He has three siblings and they have not been in the spelling bee before.

Since he won the regional bee, Quiray said he was given a book with all the instructions to prepare.

He is looking forward to the trip to Washington, D.C., although he doesn’t anticipate winning.

Quiray said he got interested in spelling bees when he was in kindergarten.

“I think it’s God-given,” Valenzuela said. “He’s just a naturally good speller and then that combined with the fact that he is such a hard working young man … He’s phenomenal to watch. I was telling Ms. Walker (principal Pam Walker) that he’s cool as a cucumber.”