Speech coach receives state honors


Valeria De La Cruz

  •  Linda Esquivel won the Texas Speech and Communication MS Educator of the Year Award this past October, an award she was not expecting to win. This award recognized all her work and time she put in this past year.

Can you tell me a bit about your award?

The Texas Speech and Communication MS Educator of the Year Award is an award given to a teacher who has shown a high level of excellence in teaching as evidenced by students and supervisors. Teachers are nominated by their district committee.  The person who nominated the teacher then creates a packet filled with the teacher’s resume, letters of recommendation for the award from supervisors, co-workers and students. The board then votes on who receives the award.

How do you feel about winning the award?

I honestly was not expecting to win, but I’m extremely honored that I did.

Was winning this award your proudest moment?

As nice as it was to win this award, I can’t say it was my proudest moment.  Proudest moments from Speech & Debate come from the success of my students.   

What do you feel made you get awarded this?

Well, I think that my work and the time I put in has been recognized by my peers as well as the students I have had the privilege of coaching in Speech.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank for your award? 

I’d definitely like to thank my family for always being patient with my work schedule.  I’d also like to thank Tasha Jones for nominating me, as well as putting together the nomination packet that obviously represented me in the best way possible.

 Is there anything you’d like to say to the students qualifying for state?

First of all, I’m proud of each and every one of you, but remember: The trophy is earned in the hours that no one is watching.

What do you like about coaching speech?

In speech, you have to find the strengths in each and every student.  The students get an opportunity to showcase their individual talents as well as having the chance to tell the story they feel like people should know or connect with.  My absolute favorite part of coaching is the “aha” moments the students and I have during sessions.  Bouncing ideas off of each other, laughing and having that moment of gratification when it finally comes together makes all of it worth it.

How did you get started with speech and debate and teaching it?

When I first started at CCISD in 2008, they had one Speech Tournament a year.  I was only aware of prose and poetry before then, so I had to learn the other events.  My first couple of years, I spent learning and teaching, until our school finally had enough finalists to win a sweepstakes in my third year. Then, I learned that my middle school students could compete against high school students, so I began traveling them around. When I had my interview at TM, I asked if I could have a Speech & Debate team, as it was important for me to continue coaching.  They said yes, and here I am!

Did you always know you wanted  to coach speech and debate?

Absolutely not.  I have always loved Theatre, but there is acting in Interpretation Events, so I was sold as soon as I was introduced to it.

If you were a student what event would you be doing?

Ha!  This is a great question.  I think I’m pretty funny, even though people can’t tell I’m joking, so I would definitely be in Humorous Interpretation. I love dramatic acting as well, and I can basically cry on demand, so I’d also have to enter Dramatic Interpretation. 

What are your fondest memories of speech and debate?

There are 2 that stick out to me the most.  I never watch students while they compete in rooms, but two years ago, I drove up to Austin to have a quick practice session with Kelsey Pierce before her final round at UIL State.  She asked if I’d go in the room for her final round since it was her senior year, and I was so hesitant, but I did.  During her performance, she looked at me for this dramatic moment, and her tears came flowing. As a coach, I was so honored to have coached this young lady and so proud of how amazing she was.  Kelsey was one of the first students who dove right into the Speech world the first year I came to TM, and watching her grow is an honor I’ll always cherish. She left Austin as UIL State Prose Champion that day.

The other memory I have is from last year.  Mrs. Jones and I have worked together only a few years, and we always have a goal list at the beginning of the year, as well a plan to get there. We wanted a State Sweepstakes.  I remember sitting in the audience, and watching our students take the stage for final places.  I remember Emiliano Flores and Cesar Palacios being so shocked that they won Duo Champions after having some low ranks in the first preliminary rounds.  I remember Chence Hull and Cesar Palacios performing in Duet and one of the judges calling out “time” indicating that their time was up to perform. The boys continued performing the duet piece even though it may have cost them 1st place … it didn’t.  They also left as Champions.  After the individual awards were given and we arrived at the Sweepstakes awards, I remember turning to Mrs. Jones and saying “we did it … we actually did it.”  That was definitely a moment I’ll never forget.

How much time and travel goes into coaching speech and debate?

It took me a week to answer these questions … that should tell you. Just kidding!  It honestly takes a lot of time if you want to be successful.  I have sessions in the morning before school as well as after school and sometimes later in the evening after my One Act rehearsals. This year, with everything being virtual, it seems like it’s taking more time trying to get videos recorded and submitted for each tournament.  We compete all year long from September to June, with an average of two tournaments a month, and these students don’t always stay with the same pieces, so it’s a non-stop process until Nationals.