New assistant speech and debate coach impressed by student motivation

October 12, 2017 — by David Koh and Anna Novoselov

On Sept. 13, newly hired assistant speech and debate coach Heather Warren sat nervously outside of English teacher Erick Rector’s room as she waited to be introduced to the speech and debate team by head coach Chris Harris. Just one week later, the scene had changed completely: Warren sat observing speeches and giving students tips to push their work further. She brainstormed ideas and also helped improve their overall writing.

After former coach Lindsey Ayotte left the program on maternity leave, Warren stepped in. Having competed in various speech events for six years in college and having coached for four years, Warren now prepares students to compete in both speech and debate events.

Warren is now one of four assistant coaches and works alongsideSteve Clemmons, Mylan Gray and Victor Umana. The coaches work with students during practices on Monday and Wednesday evenings  from 6-8 p.m.

Warren was first drawn into speech and debate when she was a student at Ohlone College in 2011. Drawing from her background in drama, Warren was able to adapt quickly to competitive level speech and experience success, winning tournaments across the U.S. and competing in nationals at the  junior college and university levels.

Warren has competed in Poetry, Drama, Prose, Duo and Programmed Oral Interpretation, a mixed genre that includes elements of poetry, prose and drama. Additionally, she has competed in communication analysis, a platform speech event in which competitors analyze rhetorical techniques.

She specializes in interp, which is the event she enjoys doing the most due to its similarities with theater.

“It is acting but with an academic purpose, and with the purpose of inspiring other people and continuing communication,” Warren said.

After transferring to San Francisco State University in 2013,  Warren became actively involved in coaching at Lowell High School, where she developed a passion for helping students communicate and develop their own style of speech.

“[Speech and debate] meant a lot to me and I learned so much from doing it,” said Warren. “I wanted to be able to continue that legacy and teach other students.”

Although Heather is a new addition to the coaching staff, she has already left an impact on students.

Due to the stress created and time consumed by college applications, senior speech captain Varun Viswanath is grateful that Warren is taking some of the load off of him by teaching new speech students. This lets him spend more time working on his own pieces and manage the overall team.

“She has an amazing ethic in assisting the kids with finding pieces, honoring their skills and ultimately preparing them for full performances,” Viswanath said.

After her past experience of mostly working with younger children, Warren was excited to work with older students at a more competitive level. She was surprised at the level of dedication and independence many Saratoga High speech and debaters have.

Warren said that she is hoping to build a team environment and provide a place of expression for the students. She supports the competitive aspect of the program and is impressed by it.

“I think the students have such ambition and are really working hard on their own outside of class,” Heather said. “I can tell that the students are really self-motivating, which is really exciting.”


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