Local Speech and Debate Coaches Earn Top Honors

Award-winning speech and debate coaches from Los Alamos. From left, Margo Batha, Janet Newton and Carolyn Connor. Courtesy photo


Judging by their success, you might think that Los Alamos students are very accomplished at speech and debate. And you would be right; but that is only part of the story.

The true unsung heroes are their coaches. Three local Speech and Debate coaches have recently been recognized both state-wide and nationally.

Margo Batha and Janet Newton coach the Los Alamos High School Speech and Debate Team, The Hilltalkers. Carolyn Connor is the coach of the Jemez Mountain Homeschool Speech and Debate Team. 

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 their 34 active coaches, only five have earned a Diamond Coach Award. Three of those five coaches are located in Los Alamos.

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 state wide who are actively engaged in forensics education and high school-level speech and debate competition in the state of New Mexico.  

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 Hilltalker’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.


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