Some students are drawn to Our Lady of the Elms School’s speech and debate team because they crave competition. Others want to get over stage fright or learn the art of persuasive speaking. Coach Elaine Fippin (above) accepts them all. And as an English teacher at the school, she already knows most of them.
“At some larger schools, the coaches may not actually teach them in subjects,” Fippin says. “We know our team very well from the classroom.”
Last school year, Our Lady of the Elms had nine qualifiers for the Ohio High School Speech League State Finals, including two finalists. Last spring, Fippin was also named to the Ohio High School Speech League Coaches Hall of Fame for her leadership of Our Lady of the Elms’ speech team, which she’s led since starting the program at the school 24 years ago.
“Whenever I needed help or wanted to talk about something, Mrs. Fippin was always great,” says Wendy Kuzmishin, a recent Elms graduate and state qualifier. “She’s probably one of the most supportive and best teachers. I think when we have a coach that’s dedicated, it’s incentive for us to work hard.”
Torie Luckenbaugh, a senior at the school this year, joined the team because of her aspirations to go into public service and international diplomacy. She credits being on the team with finding her voice and becoming comfortable speaking her opinions.
“Public speaking is an important life skill,” Luckenbaugh says. “If I have something to say, you’re definitely going to hear it.”