Forensics Advisor Earns National Award
Receiving her first recognition, debate sponsor, Ms. Michelle Watkins was named the newest recipient of the National Forensic League’s Diamond Award Oct. 18. A diamond award is given to a member of the NFL (not to be confused with the National Football League) who coaches for a minimum of five years and receives 1,500 points. Advisors receive ten percent of their team’s total points. Ms. Watkins’ tally is 2,708.4.
The award recognizes coaches for “excellency and longevity,” according the the League’s description. Teachers are able to earn multiple awards in their lifetime. Although, for a coach to receive even one in their career is a huge honor.
“Excellence, sure, longevity is kind of scary because that basically just says you’re old,” Ms. Watkins said. “It really is more about the kids because the award is based on a point system.”
Despite her modesty, Ms. Watkins’ students are very proud of her prestigious accomplishment.
“She hasn’t actually mentioned it because she’s kind of humble about it,” Four-year member Dominic Dorsa, 12, said. “I’m really proud of her to actually be able to get her diamond award.”
Ms. Watkins will be honored at NFA National Speech and Debate Tournament in Overland Park, Kansas June 19, 2014. Although, she is still not certain if she will make the trip or not.
“If we have kids going [to Nationals I will go], and if we don’t then we probably won’t go because of the cost,” she said. “I’m hoping that we have kids at nationals, we have every year that I’ve been here.”
In her time teaching, Ms. Watkins has developed a strong bond with most of her students. The students consider themselves “just a big family.”
“She’s more like a mother to us, and we’re all open with each other,” Shelby Slade, 12, said. “I go to her for problems sometimes when I need help and when I’m really stressed.”
Attending various competitions and events has allowed the debaters to develop some funny memories with their coach.
“One time, I made an inappropriate joke in a student congress speech and she kind of got upset,” Debate Captain Patrick Gibbens, 12, said. “She was mad at me because she didn’t want me to set the example for some of the newer debaters that it’s okay to do that.”
Another reason that this award is so outstanding is that Ms. Watkins has earned it while balancing many things in her life. Currently, she coaches debate, teaches speech, coaches UIL current events, and is re-attending college.
“Right now, I’m working on my masters of counseling, so I’ll be transitioning into that within the next five years or so,” she said. “I’m not ready to give up debate, but I think it will take me about five years to be at a point where I can say I’m really tired not having weekends and having to go out of town all the time.”