MAIDEN — You never know what you might learn from television.

Mill Creek Middle’s Amare Rearden has seen enough commercials advertising medicine for colds and the flu so when he was asked to spell “influenza,” he wasn’t worried.

He took a breath and spelled it correctly. It left the eighth-grader as the final student standing in the eighth round of the Catawba County Schools Spelling Bee.

Then, he spelled the word “parfait” to wrap up the competition as the 2017-18 champion, beating out 20 other individual elementary and middle school winners from the district.

“It was a relatively easy word, but I just had to slow down and focus because my main problem was not saying a letter I didn’t mean to say,” Rearden said.

With the district win, Rearden moves on to the Charlotte Observer regional spelling bee Feb. 19. This was the third time he’s competed at the local level. Rearden made it to the school level competition in fourth and seventh grades.

Windy Barham was the spelling bee coordinator this year and is an English Language Arts Curriculum Specialist for the district.

“Our students have worked hard to get to this point. They’ve had a lot of strong teachers who have taught them and mentored them,” Barham said.

She remembers the excitement she felt watching her students competing in spelling bees.

“It’s a wonderful moment to see them shine and really show their strengths in front of people,” Barham said. “It helps with public speaking skills, and it’s just an exciting moment for the students.”

Students are given practice words to help them prepare for the spelling bee. At the regional bee in Charlotte, there will be a vocabulary section as part of the competition this year. Catawba County Schools only ran a practice round for vocabulary during their bee to help students get used to the new idea.

“A lot of them are interested in learning this though, and that’s a great thing,” Barham said. “If you have a love of words and reading you can do just about anything.”

After four rounds, the CCS competition got bogged down with Rearden, Ashlyn Cline, a sixth-grader from Sherrills Ford Elementary, and Kate Moulton, a fifth-grader from Snow Creek Elementary trading words in three more rounds.

Cline and Moulton each missed their words in round eight. They would end the competition as the runners-up.

Despite his past experience and plenty of studying, Rearden said he was very nervous in the final round of the district spelling bee.

“My legs were shaking, and I was coming to the mike anticipating a hard word,” Rearden said.

When he was asked to spell “parfait,” he asked the pronouncer, Fred T. Foard High English teacher Valerie Cody, to use it in a sentence and then Rearden spelled it out with a smile, knowing he’d won.

Rearden’s strategy for the regional competition in Charlotte is to continue studying like he did before the district along with looking up additional words in the dictionary to prepare for the vocabulary side of that spelling bee.

Bernhard Rearden was equally nervous when his son stepped up to the microphone to spell his final word. The entire family worked with Amare to prepare him for the bees this year.

“We did the list of words on Spell It, which they suggested in the program, and when we were just riding up and down the street, we would see a word and say spell this or spell that,” Bernhard Rearden said.

They worked on studying the origin of words as well.

For more information about Catawba County Schools, visit

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