St. Joseph School in Farmington eighth-grader Brayden Armes, center, won the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee and will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland. He helped classmate T.J. Benoist set tables for lunch at St. Joseph School.
St. Joseph School in Farmington eighth-grader Brayden Armes, center, won the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee and will compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland. He helped classmate T.J. Benoist set tables for lunch at St. Joseph School.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Student’s ‘spell’ of wins earns him trip to national spelling bee

Brayden Armes heads to Scripps National Spelling Bee a third time

The words analgesic, heterodox and clairvoyant bring most of us to the dictionary or spellcheck, but Brayden Armes uses another search engine — his brain.

Brayden, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph School in Farmington, won the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee in which analgesic (a drug that is used to relieve pain) and heterodox (unconventional) are two of the words included in the rounds, with clairvoyant (a person who claims supernatural ability) the last word he spelled to bring his win. He’ll compete at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Md., in late May. It’s the third time Brayden has won the regional contest.

His mom is his biggest supporter.

“Even if she doesn’t know a word, she makes sure I do,” he said with a laugh. “She also makes sure I get my schoolwork done in the right way and on time. But she manages not to stress me out about it.”

Scripps provides a study guide, and Brayden took full advantage of it. “I like the big words that aren’t pronounced how they look. They’re kind of deceiving,” he said.

His favorite word is onomatopoeia, a noun that that conveys a sound.

He enjoyed spelling classes when he was younger, and he often played a video game called Scribblenauts that involves word puzzles. “My mom would tell me what the words meant, and that would help me to learn,” Brayden recalled.

He first entered a spelling bee at school in second grade. “I just kind of fell into it and ended up winning,” he explained.

The regional competition was held at Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Brayden beat out 37 other spellers from 14 schools across seven counties. Competitors for the Regional Spelling Bee are selected through qualifying competitions held at participating schools for students in the first through eighth grades. The regional winner receives a trip to Maryland to compete for a $30,000 cash prize, a $2,500 savings bond, a Nook eReader and assorted reference materials.

Brayden was the champion of the Three Rivers College Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee in 2018 when his winning word was “carpentry.” The competition lasted 12 rounds. He also won in 2016, correctly spelling “harrumph.”

The Scripps National Spelling Bee provides the list of words for the regional competition. The bee reaches an estimated 11 million students across the country and in other parts of the world with the classroom materials it provides to enrolled schools. The purpose is to help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.

Despite his proficiency at words, Brayden’s favorite subjects are math and science. “I just like numbers and equations. I’m really interested in biology and how things work,” he said.

Brayden plays basketball at school and on a traveling team. He also runs track at the Farmington Middle School.


>> Science education

St. Joseph School in Farmington is proud of its efforts at the Southeast Missouri State University Science Fair in Cape Girardeau, Mo., last month and the Mineral Area College Science Fair earlier this month in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Anna Burcham
Nine of the 10 projects from the school received awards. Anna Burcham, an eighth-grader at St. Joseph, won first place in biochemistry, the NASA Earth System Science Award, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Leah Burcham
Administration Taking the Pulse of the Planet Award, the Office of Naval Research award and Broadcom Masters Nomination.

Nora Berkbigler and Carissa Cassimatis of St. Joseph won first place in earth sciences, best group exhibit, the Association for Women Geoscientists award and Broadcom Masters Nomination. Emma Cummings won first place and best in Animal Sciences and Microbiology and the Broadcom Masters Nomination.

St. Joseph’s science teacher, John England, took the award for top educator of junior high students, the Southeast Health Teacher Award.

Anna’s sister, sixth-grader Leah Burcham, was among two recipients of the Southeast Missouri Dental Society award on a project examining whether e-cigarettes are a healthy alternative. Leah’s project examined the impact of e-cigarette vapor on the web-building ability of an orb weaver spider.

Leah also won first place in biology and Best of Fair, junior division, at the Mineral Area College Science Fair. One of Leah’s competitors for the Best of Fair award was her sister, Anna, who won first in chemistry. Last year, Anna and Nora Berkbigler won in chemistry and the Best of Fair award with a research project on the impact of certain aquatic plants on pH levels in aquatic ecosystems.

St. Joseph School had four first-place, two second-place two third-place and six honorable mention awards at Mineral Area College.

St. Vincent de Paul School in Perryville also was a big winner at the Southeast Missouri State University Science Fair with 13 category winners and three special awards. Among the honorees was Kannon Leible of St. Vincent who was honored by the Office of Naval Research.

>> Another competitor

Alecia McCulley, a seventh-grader at All Saints Academy in Florissant also is headed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Maryland. For the second year in a row, Alecia advanced to the national bee through a program in which spellers who didn’t win a regional bee get a chance to compete in the national finals. Last year, Alecia advanced through the second and third rounds, but didn’t reach the finals. Alecia enjoys singing for choir, swimming, serving at church, and participating in band and student council.

Seventeen students from Missouri are taking part in the national spelling bee.


Brayden Armes

Brayden Armes
Age 14

Three-time champion of the Southeast Missouri Regional Spelling Bee

Winning words:

Clairvoyant (2019)

Carpentry (2018)

Harrumph (2016)

His favorite word: onomatopoeia


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