By Tyler Kwon
With a new school year comes an exciting new beginning for the speech team. In an effort to reinvigorate the team’s existing membership and attract potential orators, English teacher Rachael Phipps has spearheaded some major changes as the new team coach.
Phipps, who has coached speech for ten years, has had an extensive speech career herself. Having competed in speech during all four years of her college career, she became a national champion in Program Oral Interpretation in 2007 and became a finalist on the national level in multiple events during her senior year at the University of Texas, Austin.
“My intent is to mobilize the resources and background that I have in speech, take a competitive contingency to nationals, and put Granada on the map,” Phipps said.
Over the summer, Phipps held multiple meetings and a week-long workshop for all speech members as part of her mission to reinvigorate the team. Members were taught the basics of their chosen events, and were then expected to begin the grueling process of selecting, writing, and preparing their speeches, some staying as long as five hours a day to hone and develop their speaking skills.
Despite this rigorous regimen, speech members have not been daunted by the increased workload. Novice and varsity members alike look forward to the thorough preparation and support the team’s new structure provides.
“The fact that so many students are interested in improving their public speaking skills makes me so happy as someone who is so passionate about education. I’m excited to pass on my love of communication to people, to my kids,” Phipps said regarding a recent meeting attended by over 60 team members.
According to debate coach and English teacher Jerome Robinson, this is the first time in three years that the speech team will have a speech-specific coach. Since former coach Ali Taylor’s retirement, members of the team have relied on teammates and special education assistant Lora Blessing to develop scripts and practice.
“Now that we have Ms. Phipps, it feels like I really have someone to go to,” senior and varsity team member Joshua Lloyd said.
The team earned the first place title in Original Oratory at two league tournaments last year. With Phipps’ guidance, innovative team restructuring, and an enthusiastic membership, the team expects even more success this year.
According to Phipps, though, the value of speech goes well beyond trophies and titles. To her, speech is an activity that can empower students and their voices.
“Above all else, speech provides a platform for our expression. It becomes a vehicle for social justice and advocacy, and generates a general love for performance. Speech helped me find my voice, as cliche as that sounds. That’s something I believe anyone who competes can get out of it,” Phipps said.