ALAMEDA -- When asked what his favorite subject in school is, Nicholas Toy, 12, will tell you it's physical education.
While Toy enjoys playing basketball and volleyball and is on the school teams at Chinese Christian Schools in Alameda, his court prowess isn't the biggest event he's known for. Toy, a Fremont resident, will represent the school at the Association of Christian Schools International's nationwide spelling bee at the Hope Center in Plano, Texas.
I am excited," Toy said. "I am going with my whole family."
Toy has participated in spelling bees for years and placed first in a school competition, first in a district competition and third in the state competition in Sacramento in March. He will compete for a national award May 11.
"It's a pretty impressive accomplishment," said Principal Richard Porter, of Chinese Christian Schools in Alameda. "I don't know the last time anybody from this school has gone that far."
Some of the words Toy has already mastered are ratatouille, a French dish whose name was made famous in a 2007 Disney Pixar movie and mythopoeia, the creating of a myth.
Toy, who earns straight A's in all his classes, said when he hears the words he's asked to spell he sees the spelling in his mind and rattles off the correct answer. Another technique he uses is to have his family pronounce a word, which he spells for them. This is possible because the students are given a list of words that might appear at the bee. The Texas competition list features 3,000 words that Toy has studied, and the competitors will also be challenged with off-list words at the event.
"Technically, he has to be familiar with every word on the list," Porter said. "The unpublished words are completely randomized."
The Texas bee will be like the ones on TV. Students will sit in a chair until their names are randomly called. They will then step up to the microphone and be given a word to spell. Children will eventually be eliminated until there is one winner. Toy is looking forward to the competition. There's pressure from the audience, he said, but he stays cool in front of crowds.
"It's just when they get to the unpublished list that everyone starts panicking," he said.