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MILTON ACADEMY Creating Peer to Peer Bridges Between High School and Middle School Students by Katie Hines


ocated eight miles south of Boston, Milton Academy boasts two prominent speech teams led by three dedicated and enthusiastic women. Deborah Simon advises the middle school team, while the high school team is coached by Susan Marianelli and Patrice Jean-Baptiste. Each of the coaches took their own path to get to Milton, and all play a vital role in the successful and vibrant speech community there.

MEET THE COACHES Debbie Simon began her career at Milton Academy in 1980 and can be described in one simple word: passionate. So what fuels Debbie’s passion? She enjoys seeing the transformation her students go through. Just this past year, one of her novice students was too nervous to compete at his first tournament. At the next tournament, he brought his mom to give him encouragement, but Debbie was still worried he’d be too nervous to compete. Nevertheless, he surprised her and was able to perform—and at the end of the day, she was applauding him in the final round of Storytelling. What makes this story even more heartwarming? The very next day, that same novice convinced a friend to join the team because he enjoyed the tournament so much! “It’s that transition from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’ to ‘I’m excited’—to see that in a kid is worth more to me than anything,” Debbie explains. Susan Marianelli is a self-proclaimed news and political junkie. She weaves those interests into her coaching— especially with her Extemporaneous speakers. As a two-diamond coach, Susan loves working with high school students because they’re well aware of what’s going on in the world. As Susan elaborates, “Some of the greatest conversations I’ve



“It’s that transition from ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’ to ‘I’m excited’—to see that in a kid is worth more to me than anything.” — Debbie Simon, coach

had have been with my Extempers!” Her students’ desire to change the world, along with their fearlessness, drives her passion for coaching. From an early age, Susan knew she wanted to become a teacher. In high school, she was a member of both the speech team and president of the Future Teachers club. At Milton, Susan teaches freshman English and sophomore public speaking. Patrice Jean-Baptiste is a Milton Academy graduate whose coach was none other than Debbie Simon. “Speech will change your life in ways that you would not expect,” Patrice reflects. Like Debbie, Patrice did not realize her passion for teaching until later in life. She worked as an actress for a few years before interviewing at Milton for the performing

“Speech will change your life in ways that you would not expect.” — Patrice Jean-Baptiste, coach

arts teacher and speech coach positions. After accepting, she immediately fell in love with teaching and working with students. Her favorite moments occur when things finally click for students in her classroom or on her team. One of her fondest memories happened after she spent a significant amount of time helping a student with her Poetry event. They eventually got down to the nitty gritty of her delivery. The next school day, the girl came into practice and performed the piece for Patrice. In that moment, everything finally came together. It was so moving, it brought Patrice to tears.

BUILDING A MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM When describing her team’s beloved activity, Debbie often says, “When you’re giving a speech, you’re giving a gift to your audience. It’s all about the connection you’re making to your audience.” Making connections and giving back are clear cornerstones of Milton Academy’s success. Debbie is a firm believer that starting forensic activities in middle school develops foundational skills that help students find success throughout the rest of their educational career and also later in life. After she pushed Milton to create a middle school team in 2012, she followed through on that commitment and left the high school team to become the middle school coach. Despite the differences in age and maturity between middle and high school students, Debbie did not change how she coached them. To this day, she continues

Profile for Speech & Debate

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4

2017 Spring Rostrum  

Volume 91 Issue 4