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Judging by the success of the Los Alamos High School Speech and Debate team, the coaches have a large part of the honor. Three coaches have recently been recognized both statewide and nationally.
During the past year, all three have earned the Diamond Coach Award from the National Speech and Debate Association.
The Diamond Coach Award reflects both excellence and longevity in coaching speech and debate. Of the 25 High School teams which compete in New Mexico and the 34 active coaches, only five have earned a Diamond Coach Award. Three of those five coaches are located here in Los Alamos.
Margo Batha and Janet Newton are coaches of the LAHS Hilltalkers. Carolyn Connor is coach of the Jemez Mountain Homeschool Speech and Debate team.
At the state level, the New Mexico Speech and Debate Association (NMSDA) is a professional association of educators and coaches representing public, private and charter schools statewide who are actively engaged in forensics education and high school-level speech and debate competition.
Each year the NMSDA awards Speech Coach of the Year and Debate Coach of the Year to two exemplary coaches. To be considered, coaches must be nominated, lead a successful program, and exhibit dedication, involvement and sportsmanship.
This year, the NMSDA named Newton Debate Coach of the Year and Connor Speech Coach of the Year.
Newton’s love for speech and debate goes back to her own years as a Hilltalker. Serving as coach for the past four years, Newton has led the HillAtalker’s Lincoln-Douglas debaters to unprecedented success, which culminated in the qualification of two Lincoln-Douglas debaters for the 2013 National Tournament.
Connor has coached high school-level speech and debate for the past 11 years in Los Alamos’ active home school community.
Over the years, Connor’s students have earned numerous state championships and have qualified for the national tournament in a variety of events, including Humorous Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Duo Interpretation, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Original Oratory, Student Congress, International Extemporaneous Speaking and Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking.