Updated: Dec 1, 2020
This weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing my forensics coach, Jennifer Akers. She has coached in Cabot for the past fourteen years, twenty-seven years in total! She plays a large role in the Arkansas speech and debate community, managing and assisting in many tournaments statewide. She graciously took the time to sit down and answer some of my questions, and hopefully her answers can provide some insight into a coach’s perspective!
1. What made you want to become a forensics coach?
I had no plans on being a forensics coach or teacher for that matter! I first wanted to be a speech pathologist; however, the science classes and I didn't see eye to eye in college. So, I started with English and theater studies, with no intention of being a teacher. Then, my theater professor and I had a visit and she persuaded me to go into education. It was my love for forensics/debate competition in college that made me want to continue with it for my career.
2. You’re the executive treasurer for the Arkansas Community & Theatre Arts Association. What role does ACTAA play in the speech and debate community, and how do you feel your role in ACTAA has contributed to your career as a forensics coach?
ACTAA is the driving force for Arkansas Speech and debate. ACTAA serves the students and teachers of Oral Communication, Debate, Forensic Activities, Theatre, and Dance in Arkansas!
Our mission The Arkansas Communication and Theatre Arts Association is a community of professionals devoted to the rigorous study and ethical practice of oral communication, debate, dance, and theatre arts as an essential discipline, life skill, and art form as components of the core curriculum. Through continuing teacher education, student participation, and scholarly publication the association supports the efforts and continued growth of communication and theatre arts teachers, students, and researchers.
3. What keeps you and your team motivated? What do you feel is the most important step to building community on a team?
My students keep me motivated! For the last 27 years I have coached forensics. Some days it is really hard to get motivated, but when I get to school and around my kids and team, my attitude changes. We are all about family. That has been my driving force over the years...to create a family among my team members who are caring, supportive, and develop a family bond.
4. What is your favorite thing about your career?
My favorite thing about my career is being able to see my team succeed. For some of my kids, forensics is the only place they have… to succeed, to have a family, to travel, to do things they may never get to do. I LOVE to see my kids on that stage at an awards ceremony with smiles on their faces because they have made it to finals! My heart beams for them! I feel the joy and excitement they feel.
5. How has speech and debate impacted you?
Speech and debate has impacted me from my first rounds in college through the past 27 years of coaching by giving me something to always be excited for...it has given me over 2,000 students who have blessed my life!
6. When do you feel like you found your voice, and how can others do the same?
I think I first found my voice, probably my senior year of college. That is when I "figured" a lot of things out. That year I knew if anyone was going to stand up for me, it had to be me. Then, every year since I find more of my voice. I don't think anyone is truly finished finding their voice or finding who they are...we grow every year.
7. How can students be leaders in their community?
Students need to find what they are passionate about and find a school or community organization that represents and advocates for those things. They need to get involved in those organizations and begin advocating for what they believe in.
Madison Dengel (She/Her)
Cabot High School Sophomore