About Me


My name is Raphael. I am 15 years old and in the 10th grade. This picture was taken at my first spelling bee when I was 11. (I was wearing my velcro letter shirt which I changed to a different spelling bee pun every day that week!) I am now too old to compete in spelling bees, but here is the story of how I got started (which I wrote when I was 12).

I have been interested in spelling since I was 5, but it wasn't until I was in third grade that I started the spelling "business". It all started when I was 6 years old. My grandparents, I call them Safta and Papa, were visiting from California. They come once a year.

"I’m a good speller." I challenged Papa.

"Really?" Papa asked, "How good of a speller are you?"

"I don't know," I replied grinning, "Pretty good."

"I have one for you," Papa said, "Spell antidisestablishmentarianism."

"Spell what?!" I said, as my jaw dropped.

"Antidisestablishmentarianism." Papa repeated.

I laughed "I give up." I said smiling and a bit humiliated as I hung my head and shook it in defeat.

"Alright," Papa said, "a-n-t-i-d-i-s-e-s-t-a-b-l-i-s-h-m-e-n-t-a-r-i-a-n-i-s-m." How was I supposed to remember all that? After they left, I decided to impress him the next time they came, so I studied the word antidisestablishmentarianism. It then became one of my favorite words. When at last they came the following year, I was confident, because I thought Papa was going to give me that word, and I would get it right leaving him stunned, but that didn't happen. He knew me all too well. I once again challenged him to give me a hard word.

"Spell phlegm," Papa said after a long thought. I was expecting him to give me antidisestablishmentarianism, and I didn't know phlegm.

"Come on, Papa." I said, as everyone else chirped in chorus "You can give him a harder word than that." But Papa refused.

"First you will spell phlegm," he said firmly. Papa had stumped me again. It was then that I wanted to participate in the spelling bee. Then I'd show him. The next bee wasn't until next year, but that didn't matter to me. I would have more time to study. I went to the Denver City Written Spelling Bee. I was their youngest competitor - a 3rd grader. Most people there were in 7th and 8th grade! I didn't make it in the top 25 and go to the Denver District Oral Bee, but I didn't give up. I tried again and again until finally, when I was 11, I made it! I was up against 120 mostly middle- schoolers. I was so excited! In the city oral bee, I completed many rounds, but I remember vividly the ding of the bell. I was thrown off on the schwa in the word "investiture." I'm never going to miss such a simple word like that again. I placed 10th in the city, which was pretty good for a 5th grader. The following year I was co-champion and got a 1st place ribbon. So keep this tip in mind...