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Episode 5 Thumbnail - Spotlight Podcast

Across the nation, National Board reviews the practice of accomplished teachers to evaluate whether they represent the values and standards of excellence in education. In SUSD, we have nearly 70 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCT) across our 29 schools. On this episode of Spotlight, we sit down with NBCT Susan Leonard, an Ingleside Middle School educator and SUSD’S lead trainer for NBCT candidates. We dive into a fun conversation about education excellence and how teachers in 2024 can feel appreciated and recognized for their achievements. 

Read More about Appreciating Teachers & National Board Certification w/Susan Leonard
Annual District Spelling Bee 2024

It was 13-year-old Nina Bhatia who emerged as the champion of the January 19 Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD) Spelling Bee, spelling the word “indemnity” correctly.

Among the words she also had to spell were “megaron,” “coccidiosis” and “innards.” How did the Cocopah Middle School eighth grade student prepare for the 2024 Bee? “For the easier words, I usually just skimmed over them and made sure I practiced them,” said Bhatia.

“For the harder words, though, we had to kind of associate with the picture and also definitions. It took a really long time for the hard words,” she added.

Bhatia credited her mother with helping her study and shared that she doesn’t plan to change her approach for the Region II Spelling Bee that SUSD will host at Coronado High School on February 9. There, she will be joined by the district bee’s five runners-up:

  • Gabriel Roxas, fifth grade, Hohokam Elementary School
  • Dhruv Bansal, sixth grade, Desert Canyon Middle School
  • Raquel Charlesworth, eighth grade, Mountainside Middle School
  • Jak Boudi, fifth grade, Hopi Elementary School
  • Promise Elhassan, fourth grade, Yavapai Elementary School

Bee winners from the Cave Creek, Deer Valley and Paradise Valley Unified School districts, as well as northeast Valley charter, private and homeschools, will also participate in the Region II Bee. The regional bee winner will head to the March 16 Arizona Spelling Bee at the Madison Center for the Arts in Phoenix. The state bee champion will be Arizona’s representative in the 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee which will be held May 26 – June 1 in National Harbor, Maryland. As for Bhatia, she reads more nonfiction than fiction these days. Her favorite fiction author is J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame. Her favorite Harry Potter character? Gryffindor’s Hermione Granger, but, she added, “I’m a Slytherin.”

A day earlier, SUSD conducted its second middle school Spanish Spelling Bee. Eighth graders swept the top three spots.

Echo Canyon School’s Adrián Fernando Alvarado Padilla out-spelled 16 other students, winning with the word “embarazoso.” Cocopah Middle School’s Matias Lagos Pucllas finished in second place; Ingleside Middle School’s Angel Gomez finished third.

Read More about Annual District Spelling Bee 2024


Cocopah Middle School, located in Scottsdale, Arizona, is known for its commitment to academic excellence and a supportive learning environment. With a focus on both rigorous education and holistic development, Cocopah Middle School aims to prepare students for future success through innovative teaching methods and a wide range of extracurricular activities. The school community values diversity and strives to foster a strong sense of community among students, parents, and staff alike.


Principal Olney graduated from ASU in 2000 with a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Global Business. His first career started at Charles Schwab as a stockbroker. Following September 11, 2001 he decided to change career paths...

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