Advanced Search

NFHS Coaching Today
Ultimate Highschool Buyers Guide

Outstanding Speech, Debate and Theatre Educator Awards - 2009-10

By Emily Newell and Daniel Schumerth


Bettie Jo Carroll – Section 2, Virginia

Bettie Jo Carroll has dedicated 24 years of service to the speech and drama programs at Galax (Virginia) High School, directing drama students to six state championships, more than 10 regional championships and nearly 20 district championships.

In addition, Carroll has directed several one act productions and more than 15 major musicals at Galax High School. She has taught gifted students at the Appalachian Summer Regional Governor’s School for the past 20 years, offering courses from Shakespeare’s Comedies to Hitchcock Film and Television Production. Aside from theatre, she also plays an active role in the forensics program at Galax High School, leading teams to several district and regional titles. In the community, she has been a member of the Galax Theatre Guild for more than 21 years, acting in, directing or serving as a technician for more than 15 productions.

Carroll is a graduate of East Carolina University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Speech and Drama. She is an active member of the Virginia Association of Speech, Debate and Drama Coaches (VASDDC) and the Nation Association of Teachers of English. In 2008, the VASDDC recognized her as the 2008 Drama Coach of the Year.


Paul Van Zant – Section 3, Missouri

After teaching for 20 years, Paul Van Zant found a passion for speech, debate and theatre. After serving as a volunteer judge at a few local forensics tournaments he became a passionate leader in theatre, speech and debate at both Hattiesburg (Missouri) High School and Sacred Heart Catholic School, also in Hattiesburg.

In 1998 and 1999, Van Zant was invited to be a guest director for Hattiesburg High School’s productions of The Diary of Anne Frank and Smoke on the Mountain. He was subsequently named as the Director of Theatre at Hattiesburg in 2003, which put him in charge of the theatre productions, speech and debate teams and the mock trial team. In 2003 and 2006, productions for which Van Zant was the technical director were named as the Best Technical Productions by the Mississippi Theatre Association High School Festival. Additionally, Hattiesburg High School’s production The Katrina Project: Hell and High Water was named best production and represented Mississippi in the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 2006. The mock trial teams Van Zant coached at Hattiesburg High School all advanced to state competition, placing third two times and finished as finalists another two.

After teaching for 32 years at Hattiesburg High School, Van Zant moved to Sacred Heart Catholic School in 2007 where he now coaches the speech and debate team and the mock trial team. Last year, Van Zant’s mock trial team placed first in state and went on to represent Mississippi in the national competition.


Douglas Springer – Section 4, Illinois

June 4, 2008, Douglas Springer completed his 40th year as an educator. Since beginning his teaching career in 1968, he has been involved in some way with coaching and directing the forensics, speech and theatre programs at Pekin (Illinois) Community High School and most recently at New Trier Township High School in Winnetka, Illinois.

Springer began his career at Pekin Community High School as the director of forensics for 26 years. He also served as the chair of the department of speech and theatre for 12 years. During his time there, he coached several state champions and finalists in forensics. In addition, he coached two national finalists and one national champion. Springer now serves as the debate coach at New Trier Township High School, a position he has held for the past 14 years. In that time, he has coached three state champions in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, one national finalist in Congressional Debate and the 2008 national runners-up in Policy Debate.

In addition to coaching an array of state and national finalists and champions, Springer was an elected delegate to the National Education Association Representative Assembly twice and is an active member of the National Communication Association and the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association. In 2008, he was awarded the John M. Hires Award by the Illinois High School Association and the 2008 Coach of the Year for the Northern Illinois District National Forensic League. He is recognized as a National Forensic League Four Diamond coach.


Matt Davis – Section 5, Nebraska

In the 20 years Matt Davis has been an educator, he has made significant contributions to the world of high school speech and debate.

Most recently, Davis has taught oral communication, introductory and advanced debate, argumentation and persuasion, media studies and forensics at Lincoln (Nebraska) East High School. He has received three Diamond Key Awards from the National Forensic League (NFL) as well as earning the NFL’s awards for Outstanding Service in 2008, National School of Excellence in Speech in 2005, National Champion of Coaching in 2005 and the National Service Award in 2004. He was the Nebraska South NFL District Director of the Year five times between 1998 and 2008 and earned the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) State Speech Champion Coaching Award 12 times between 1997 and 2009.

Davis has also served as a member of various national and state associations and committees and including the NSAA, the NFL oratory rules review and wording committee. Davis also served as president of the Nebraska Speech Communication and Theatre Association (NSCTA) President from 2004 to 2006. He has served on various other committees for the NSCTA since 1995. He is currently the chair of the Nebraska South NFL District Committee, a position he has held since 1999.


Noel Trujillo – Section 6, New Mexico.

Noel Trujillo’s commitment to studies of speech and debate has endured since he began teaching in 1973. Over the years, he has coached speech, debate and mock trial and has directed a speech and debate tournament every year since 1978.

Since 1990, Trujillo has taught English, speech and debate at Los Alamos (New Mexico) High School. There, he has coached and maintained a competitive speech program in policy and value debate, oratory, dramatic and humorous interpretation and extemporaneous speaking. Several students he has coached have gone on to state and national competitions, including placing third and ninth in speech at the Forensic League National Speech Tournament.

Additionally, Trujillo has been recognized at the state and national level for his commitment to speech and debate. He was named the 1986 New Mexico Speech Coach of the Year and the 2007 New Mexico Debate Coach of the Year. He also served as the district chairman for the New Mexico District of the National Forensic League. This is Trujillo’s second NFHS Outstanding Speech Educator Award.


Erik Dominguez – Section 7, Arizona

Erik Dominguez’s interest in speech and debate began in high school and continued into college, where he competed for Arizona State University’s team.

Dominguez began his career as a coach at Tucson (Arizona) Salpointe Catholic High School where he was an assistant forensics coach. Currently, Dominguez is the speech, theatre and debate director at Phoenix (Arizona) Desert Vista High School. His students have been successful in competition, with three National Forensic League (NFL) main event finalists, two NFL National Congress Semifinalists and one Supersession participant in 2009. In addition, Dominguez is recognized by the NFL as a Two Diamond level coach. He was the March 2006 Desert Vista High School Teacher of the Month and the 99.9 KEZ/Rio Salado Excellence in Education Outstanding Teacher in 2007.

Additionally, Dominguez lead the 5A Arizona Interscholastic Association Speech, Theatre and Debate Champions from 2004 to 2009.His philosophy on education is that the two most important things are to love the kids and expect the best from them. The rest, he said, takes care of itself.


Matthew Ogle – Section 8, Oregon

After being introduced to speech while he was a long-term substitute teacher at Gresham (Oregon) High School in 1996, Matthew Ogle found what he wanted to do. After that, he became the assistant coach at Gresham High School for two years.

Since 1998, Ogle has been the coach of the speech team at Silverton (Oregon) High School, a program which has grown tremendously since Ogle became the coach. In his first year, only 15 students participated on the team. Today, there are 45. Over the past 10 years, the team has sent 10 to 20 students to the state tournament each year. His teams have won the district tournament six times, placed fifth in state in 2007 and won the state championships in 2008. His teams have also produced six students who competed at the National Forensics League (NFL) National Championships.

Ogle currently serves as the chair of the Northern Oregon NFL, a position he has held since 2007. He has served as the district chair of the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) District Tournament. For the past nine years Ogle has been a member of the OSAA State Tournament Committee. He is also responsible for the National Qualification District Tournament for northern Oregon.

 Rose Mary Baker

Rose Baker – Oklahoma

In her 23 years at Putnam City North (Oklahoma) High School, Rose Baker’s students have been Regional One-Act Play Champions 15 times, have qualified for state 18 times, and placed third in state three times. Her competitive speech team has won state championships two years in a row, placed in the top three five times and won the first-place Academic Award. Her students have qualified for the National speech Tournament several times.

In addition to competitive debate, Baker directs a major musical, a full-length play and six one-act plays each year. In 2004, she was named her school’s teacher of the year. Baker also serves as the chairman of the fine arts department. Baker, an active member of the Oklahoma Speech Theatre and Communication Association (OSTCA) was named the 1989 State Theatre Teach of the Year and the 1990 Central United States Activities Association Outstanding Young Teacher. She has taught sessions at the state speech teachers’ meetings and will serves on the Regional Speech Tournament Committee, for which she will serve as the tournament director this year.

Baker believes that all students are capable of learning and that all students deserve the opportunity to do so.

Alyn Bone – Utah

Alyn Bone has been teaching high school drama for 14 years. He directs five shows a year and has written two melodramas. He served as a region representative in drama for seven years, runs the Region I drama competition – now festival – and currently serves as State 5A representative in drama. He has also served as the judge coordinator and is now very active in organizing and running the state festival.

In addition to job, Bone takes part in community theatre, producing and directing 20 productions with one in particular. For his efforts, Bone has received many prestigious accolades. He has been named the Region I Theatre Educator of the Year and has been nominated for outstanding educator in the Davis (Utah) School District. Students under Bone’s mentorship have earned scholarships to the Universities of Utah and Wyoming.

Bone loves teaching and believes the arts and theatre are what give humans humanity.


Debra Catton – Arkansas

Though she inherited a school with just 12 students in competitive drama four years ago, Debra Catton was able to cast a 27-student musical by spring of her first year. The competitive drama program now stands at 32 students at the school of 1,300 — k-12. In her first year there, one student qualified for the state tournament of champions. This year, 15 qualified.

Catton is a member of the Arkansas State Communication Association (ASCA), for which she has served on the Demonstration Day Committee and helped with Tournament of Champions sectioning. She is the ASCA executive treasurer.

As an educator, Catton believes it is her job to provide students with the tools they need to be successful in life, in addition to showing students they are cared about.


Tracy Harrison – Idaho

In her eight years as a high school drama director, Tracy Harrison’s competitive drama team has never placed lower than second at the district tournaments. In addition to coaching, she teaches theater – including beginning through advanced acting, beginning through advanced stage craft, directing and competitive drama – and a core speech class and directs, designs and builds all school productions. She has directed over 20 plays while there. She also provides a character education series for local elementary schools and performers for additional community performers.

Before her time in high school education, Harrison started teaching fifth graders, where she learned that using drama is an effective method of teaching. She used her findings as the bases of the two colleges courses she went on to teach about integrating drama and education. In 2003, Harrison’s drama was featured in a brief documentary sponsored by the Idaho State Board of Education profiling what they termed “innovative, caring education practices from across the state called “Idaho’s Gold.

Harrisons managed and run district drama tournaments, which have involved up to 19 schools and 300 students. He was voted the 2005 Idaho Speech Arts Teacher Association (ISATA). He has served as the ISATA District III president and revised Idaho State’s Theater Arts Awards. He was the interim Drama Commissioner for the state of Idaho.

“I am passionate about my work and feel privileged to in gage in it.

Holly Hathaway – Indiana

Holly Hathaway has been involved in the theatre departments of several Indiana high schools before settling into her current job as director of speech and theatre at Connersville (Indiana) High School. She has been in that position since 1996.

Hathaway has been heavily involved in many areas of the school. She is the theatre director and sponsor, the speech and debate coach and the madrigal drama director. She is recognized by the National Forensic League (NFL) as a Double Diamond Coach and was inducted into the Indiana High School Forensic Association (IHSFA) Hall of Fame in 2006. Hathaway is the recipient of the NFL’s 2009 Distinguished Service Award and has been the NFL and Catholic Forensics League coach of national qualifiers since 2000.

Hathaway is also a member of several state and national organizations, including the NFL, NFHS, the National Federation of Interscholastic Speech and Debate Associations, and the IHSFA. She also serves on several committees for the IHSFA, including the executive council and the sectional committee. Since 2009, she has been the Hoosier Heartland District Chairperson of the NFL. 


Henry Hertz – Illinois

Henry Hertz has served his students in a multitude of ways, including as department chair in English and a speech, theatre and English instructor, as well as director of theatre productions and assistant forensics and debate coach.

For his efforts Hertz has been received a myriad of awards including, the 2008 Illinois Speech and Theatre Association W.P. Sanford Award and the 2003 PSTA and Rotary Club of Lansing Illinois Teacher of the Year Award. He has been named director of the Illinois state championship productions at the Illinois High School Association state final drama and group interpretation contests six times. He has earned a fellowship at the Northwestern University School of Speech and the auditorium at the school at which he teaches has been named after him.

In addition to his work as an educator, Hertz has served as a member and chairperson of the Illinois High School Association State Final Drama/Group Interpretation Contest committee, a member of the board of directors of the Illinois Speech and Theatre Association and the director of the Illinois High School Theatre Festival All-State Production.

Hertz believes in a co-curricular program – including speech and theatre education – as an integral part of the education process, which maximizes the originality and creativity of students.


Gayle Hyde – North Dakota

Since 1983, Gale Hyde has been educating North Dakota students. She has spread her knowledge around two high schools and a middle school, for which she started a speech and debate program. She has taught and directed speech, debate and student congress at the high school level. She serves as the National Forensic League (NFL) advisor to two different high schools.

Throughout her career, Hyde has served on state committees to determine novice limits for the policy debate topic, to revise the state association rules, and how to govern speech, debate and student congress. Hyde has served several times as state manager for both speech and debate events and has helped schedule the North Dakota High School Activities Association (NDHSAA) state A speech tournament and state debate tournament. She has also served as EDC regional manager and region II class B regional manager, in addition to managing NFL tournaments. And she has conducted speech, debate and student congress workshops to both students and coaches.

Krista Kohl – Kentucky

Krista Kohl joined her school’s speech and drama team while in middle school. After that, she was hooked. While attending Northern Kentucky University, she became the assistant forensics coach and the assistant musical director at her alma mater.

Now, Kohl is now the forensics coach at Florence (Kentucky) Boone County High School. Though her teams are much smaller compared to other elite-level teams, the forensics team has won the Kentucky High School Speech League state title. Teams coached by Kohl have also been runners-up at both the KHSSL and the Kentucky Educational Speech and Drama Association (KESDA) state tournaments in the past year. Students on teams coached by Kohl have gone on to become finalists at the National Forensics League (NFL) National Championships. Her students have won the extemporaneous portion of the Wake Forest National Tournament and have been invited to the George Mason and Blue Key tournaments.

Kohl is the current and first director of the Speech Professional Educational Association of Kentucky. She is also a member of the KESDA state board and the NFL district committee.


John Arden Lawson – Michigan

In his 36-year debate coaching career, John Arden Lawson has coached seven Michigan Varsity Policy Debate Championship teams and two junior varsity and four Novice State Championship Policy Debate teams. Several other teams have reached the quarter, semi and final rounds of those tournaments under his leadership.

At the national level, Lawson has coached one National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand Tournament Policy Championship team, two quarterfinalist teams and three octafinalists NCFL nationals. One of his teams has reached the quarterfinals of the National Tournament of Champions in Policy Debate at the University of Kentucky. Lawson has coached 11 top prize competitors at the Detroit Free Press’ John S. Knight Debate Scholarship Contest, a competition which has awarded more than thirty of his students with scholarships.

In addition to coaching debate, Lawson coaches individual events (forensics), student congress and facilitated Mock Trial. He has teaches a variety of classes – ranging from beginning and advanced debate to broadcast speech to American government and world cultures – and works in administration as social studies department chair.

Lawson has coached three state champions in each of the extemp, impromptu and oratory categories, as well as one in broadcasting and another in informative speaking. He has coached a semi finalist at the National Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions hosted by Northwestern University.

Many accolades have found their way to Lawson’s resume. He has been granted the Michigan Speech Coaches, Inc. Debate Coach of the Year, the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association Elice Howard Distinguished Service Award and the several awards from the Parent Advisory Council of Southfield High School and groves High School student congress. He has also served as president of the Michigan Speech Coaches Association and been a member of the executive council of the Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association.          

Lawson was initially a lawyer, but gave up that occupation, along with a lot of money, to the track of an educator. He believes that because “every child can learn, every student can speak.”

Christopher McDonald – Minnesota

Throughout his 22-year forensic arts educating career, Christopher McDonald has worked for three different high schools, including Eagan (Minnesota) High School, where he now serves as director of debate activities and assistant speech coach.

McDonald is now a part of the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) Representative Assembly and Debate Advisory Committee. He has served as a member of the MSHSL Debate Advisory Committee and has been the Speech, Debate and One Act representative on the MSHSL Region 3AA Committee. He has also been president of the Minnesota Debate Teachers Association (MDTA), an organization for which he now serves as outreach coordinator. McDonald has served the Communication Theater Association of Minnesota (CTAM) as a debate representative to the CTAM board of governors, a participant in panels and primary presenter of topics ranging from rules and event governance to specific pedagogical explorations of interscholastic fine arts events from debate to extemporaneous speaking. And he currently serves the National Forensic League (NFL) as both the chairperson for the National Extemporaneous Speaking Committee and as a member of the board of directors.

Throughout his years as an educator, McDonald has coached five MSHSL extemporaneous speaking state champions, three MSHSL debate state champions and several state runner-ups and semifinalists. He has coached three NFL extemporaneous speaking national champions, one extemporaneous speaking NCFL Grand National Champion and four extemporaneous speaking champions at the National Tournament of Champions in Extemporaneous Speaking.

For his efforts, McDonald has been granted the 1994 Apple Valley High School Apple Core Outstanding Debate Coaching Award, the 1997 Stillwater High School Lamplighter Award and the 2000 Blake Schools of Minnesota Jack Edie Outstanding Debate Coaching Award. He also earned the 2005 MDTA James Graupner Distinguished Service Award. McDonald has been named both the 2007 MDTA Coach of the Year and the 2007 Minnesota Speech Coaches Association (MSCA) AA Coach of the Year, as well as the 2008 Northwestern University National Extemporaneous Speaking Coach of the Year.

McDonald – who believes all students would benefit from forensic education – said forensics teaches students self-confidence, self-motivation and critical thinking.


Sharon Prendergast – South Dakota

In addition to teaching English, speech and theatre, Sharon Prendergast has directed 14 one-act plays – 13 of which have qualified for the state festival – 30 outstanding performer awards and nine all-school plays. She built a previously non-existent oral interpretation program into a well-respected one, in which her students have received 46 state superior awards along with region championship trophies. Prendergast also founded and now advises an IMPROV group, “High Impact,” in addition to advising the drama club. In three years of participation in Poetry Out Loud, her students have been state finalists twice.

Prendergast has been a member of both the Sisseton Arts Council and the Prairie Repertory Theatre board of directors. She has also served on the South Dakota High School Activities (SDHSAA) speech advisory committee and the Speech Communications Association of South Dakota (SCASD) Executive Committee, for which she has served as region committee chair and state festival tabulator.

Prendergast believes that an educator should trust his or her students, while also challenging them. She believes that adversity makes you stronger and that there is a place for every student in speech and drama activities.


Robert Shepard – Texas

Robert Shepard has served students in a myriad of ways, including as an administrator, teacher and coach. The current vice president of the Texas Forensic Association (TFA) started teaching high school debate, speech and theatre in 1992. He has taught at four different high schools and coached at five. He coached nine state championship teams in various categories, three second-place teams and two fourth-place teams in class.

Shepard is a member of the National Forensic League (NFL) NFHS Speech, Debate and Theatre Association, the National Speech Communication Association (NSCA), the TFA, the Texas Speech Communication Association (TSCA), and the Texas University Interscholastic League (UIL). He is a member of the UIL Prose/Poetry Selection Committee, a high school fine arts department manager and a high school Magnet Theme Trainer and Funds Manager.

Shepard believes “all children can learn, just not in the same way.”


Janet Slusher Keith – Virginia

Prior to her retirement last year, Janet Slusher Keith was the coach of the Floyd (Virginia) County High School forensics program from 38 years.

Upon her retirement, an article in a local newspaper named Keith “Floyd County High School’s winningest coach.” This distinction comes from her teams’ outstanding achievements. Those teams have won every district title since the inception of the Three Rivers District 14 years ago. The teams have been regional team runners-up numerous times and have sent individual competitors to state competitions for 37 years. Several have walked away state finalists or state champions. Over the years, she has made sure the team is a part of the community, and in turn, the community supports the team, as many have donated money to cover travel expenses or volunteered as judges at district and regional meets. Besides coaching, she has also served as an adjudicator at several meets.

In addition to her success as a coach, Keith has served as the English department chair at Floyd County High School. She is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma, the National Council of Teachers of English and the Appalachian Teachers Network.


Marcia Stewart-Warren – Oregon

Even though she taught at a small school district with limited funds for fine arts activities, upon moving from elementary and secondary education to high school, Marcia Stewart-Warren – in addition to teaching English – started theatre, debate and speech classes. She discovered local artists who were able to volunteer and work with students on the sets, hired light and sound technicians to make the cafeteria/gym into a temporary theatre and train students to use the technology and found volunteer seamstresses to help with the costumes. She has now raised enough money through her productions and the school budget to keep the program afloat during the economical crunch. In a school of 65 to 75 students on average, 30-plus students tend to be involved in theatrical productions in one way or another.

Stewart-Warren started the speech and debate program with two girls. She teaches vocal music prior to the school day and coaches forensics afterward. Fourteen years later, the team averages 15 to 20 students per year and competes in every National Forensic League (NFL) event and the first student was sent to nationals four years ago. The program averages two students per year who enter college with speech, debate, music or theater scholarships.

According to Stewart-Warren, “Children are society’s future” and she believes her responsibility is to “find the secret code in every student that unlocks their potential for becoming successful adults.”



David Watkins – Missouri

Throughout his years as an educator, David Watkins has served as a speech/debate teacher (22 years), a district chair person of the Carver-Truman National Forensic League (NFL) district committee (five years) and a member of the board of governors and workshop director of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri — an organization that he has been a part of for 21 years. Watkins has also served as president of the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri and the Southwest Missouri Speech and Theatre Association (SMSAT). He has been a district manager for the Southern MSHSAA District Tournament, has taught debate workshops for both students and teachers and is a member of the National Federation of Speech Debate and Theatre Association.

For his success, Watkins was named the 1988 SMSAT Outstanding New Speech/theatre Teacher, the 1989 El Dorado Springs School District High School Teacher of the Year, the 1999 Neosho School District Teacher of the Year and the 2003 SMSAT Outstanding Member.  He has coached state and national championship teams in impromptu and public forum debate and state championship teams in extemporaneous debate. The NFL awarded Watkins with four diamonds and the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri granted him the Wayne Brown Outstanding Teacher award. In 2006, Watkins was presented with the States Advisory Council High School Teaching Award at the National Communication Association Convention. Watkins has coached 139 qualifiers to the NFL National Tournament.

Watkins sees his mission in the classroom as making sure that his students do not simply know the subject matter within, but that they also know the application of the subject matter outside of the classroom.


David Wendt – Iowa

A teacher for more than 25 years, David Wendt has been involved with speech and forensics since the start of his career. He first began at Burlington (Iowa) High School in 1984 before moving to his current position at Keokuk (Iowa) High School, where he has been since 1989.

His commitment to excellence in speech forensics is shown through the success of his students. He has coached the 1989 National Forensics League (NFL) Expository Speaking national champion, four NFL national finalists between 1985 and 1996, 15 individual state champions, 49 Iowa Forensic League state finalists, 65 individual Iowa High School Speech Association all-state qualifiers and 24 NFL National Tournament qualifiers. Wendt is a member of the National Communication, the Central States Communication Association, the IHSSA and the Federation of Iowa Speech Organizations. He has held several leadership positions in each of these over the years.

Other than speech and forensics, Wendt has been involved in many other aspects of Burlington High School, serving as a coach or sponsor for the fall and spring play, quiz bowl, citizen bee, student council, volleyball, softball, young mothers support group and Students Against Drunk Driving. Wendt is also a speech communication instructor at the Junior Statesman of America Program at Stanford each summer, which is a program taught to competitive high school students from all over the world.


Emily Newell is a spring intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Departments. She is a sophomore at Butler (Indiana) University, majoring in journalism (news editorial).

Dan Schumerth is a spring semester intern in the NFHS Publications/Communications Department. He is a senior at Franklin (Indiana) College, majoring in journalism (news/editorial).



sports imports 1

Copyright ©2011 National Federation of State High School Associations. All Rights Reserved.

National Federation of State High School Associations
PO Box 690 • Indianapolis, IN 46206 • PHONE: 317.972.6900 • FAX: 317.822.5700


  Hall Of FameiHoopsLogo2     NIAAA   Let's Move In School