On Wednesday, Nov. 18, during the sixth annual Broward County Public Schools Debate Initiative “Lunch-In” and Student Exhibition, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Principal Michelle Kefford announced that Speech and Debate coach Dr. Jacob Abraham was awarded BCPS Debate Coach of the Year.
“It’s really an honor to be named [BCPS Debate] Coach of the Year. It’s nice to have my work recognized,” Abraham said.
Abraham has taught at MSD for the past two years. Throughout this time, he has taught and coached classes including debate and dual enrollment speech classes, such as public speaking. In addition, he co-coaches the men’s and women’s water polo teams and advises both the Interact Club and Law Club.
“Dr. Abraham has been an incredible mentor both as a teacher and a debate coach,” MSD Speech and Debate President Gabbey Montes said. “He always pushes us to do our best and be excellent in all we do. Throughout these three years, he has helped develop our confidence and research skills while encouraging us to be more aware of the world around us, not only making us better orators but also students and people.”
The MSD Speech and Debate Program competes at local, state and national competitions, all of which a number of his students have succeeded in. One of the competitions was the 46th Annual Harvard National Forensics Tournament which was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts in February. However, the team does not only focus on their victories at competitions, they also look at the impact that they have made on the community.
“We work with our feeder middle schools and [enter] students to judge middle and elementary tournaments probably more than anyone else,” Abraham said. “So, I see it as not just me being recognized, it’s our whole team’s dedication to [the BCPS Debate Initiative].”
According to BCPS, the BCPS Debate Initiative is a partnership between local businesses and high school debate programs within the county. Sponsorship options can range from individual tournament travel to full-year team assistance, all of which help students learn useful life skills, build their resumes and positively impact their lives with the art of speech and debate.
Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, Abraham and the speech and debate students hosted district middle school debate tournaments at MSD. These tournaments included over 700 middle school students from around the district. Many speech and debate students, as well as MSD students, volunteered to judge and serve as room monitors during these tournaments.
As Abraham reflects on the successes of the program, he believes that strength is not measured through trophies but instead through the success of his students.
“I’ll measure success by how well we teach incoming freshmen how to do speech and debate, how many of our most dedicated teammates go to the schools of their choices and how many make it to post-graduate life, [as well as how] prepared [they are] for life’s challenges,” Abraham said. “Students might not realize how much easier the rest of their school life is if they can master the skills required to keep up in our little community.”
This story was originally published in the December 2020 Eagle Eye print edition.