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Letter from the Superintendant

posted May 9, 2016, 1:33 PM by Emily McKinnon   [ updated May 9, 2016, 1:33 PM by CEL Marketing PR Design ]

The Importance of a Speech Program

May 9, 2016

Dear Community,

Did you know Princeton offers a Speech Program?  Our district offers it at both the Middle School and High School.  Did you also know that speaking in front of crowds is still a number one fear for adults?  This program dispels that fear.  In addition, it prepares students for the world beyond high school including postsecondary education and the world of work.  The speech program offers all of this, plus it helps students feel connected to our school community; it also nurtures student leadership skills.  In my career, I have always valued the Speech Program.

Thor Mattick is our Head Coach, and he has been at the helm for 11 years.  He spent 4 years as an assistant coach outside of our district, prior to being an assistant here in Princeton for a year.

Obviously, Thor finds speech to be important in students’ lives.

Thor says, “My experience with speech has been that students who participate in this activity develop a great sense of self confidence.  The idea of exposing one's ideas and interpretations in front of an audience where they are being judged and compared to others forces students to be able to create a realistic evaluation of their own ability.  Speech allows students to set individual goals that other activities don't always embrace.  Many of our students join simply to become more comfortable as a speaker, not to become the best at what they are doing.  Speech students often commiserate with students from other schools and create friendships that cross beyond the competitive field.  Speech is an activity that teaches many important life skills, and allows students to express themselves in a variety of ways.”

What exactly is Speech?  The traditional events include impromptu and extemporaneous speaking competitions.  There are also platform categories, such as oratory, informative speaking, special occasion speaking, and oratorical declamation of great speeches.  There are events which are oral interpretation of literature:  the performance of poetry, prose or dramatic literature.  Princeton students participate in all of these events.

Why would we have a speech team?  Many studies show that students’ grade point averages, have improved by participating in this activity.  Compared to other activities, a study in Minnesota showed that in comparison to other extracurricular activities, Speech and other fine arts participation showed the highest gains in grade point averages.  Other studies have generated results that claim speech programs positively impact the following:

  • Learning outcomes,

  • Critical thinking,

  • Oral competency,

  • Reading comprehension, and

  • Occupational outcomes.

In the words of John Heineman, Individual Events Coach, Lincoln (Nebraska) High School, “Not every student will win a state championship or qualify for nationals, but students will inevitably discover that the persistence, dedication and sweat it takes to compose an oratory, perform an interpretation or prepare an extemporaneous speech is the same hard work it takes to survive that first semester of college, land that big job or create a strong family unit.”

Princeton is indeed fortunate to have a thriving speech program.  Our students’ lives benefit by this option.  If you have a son, daughter, grandchild, niece, nephew or young friend, take some time to talk to them about pursuing this valuable activity.

Julia A. Espe, Superintendent of Princeton Public Schools

P.S.  Did you know our School Board member, Howard Vallaincourt, is in the Minnesota State High School League Speech Hall of Fame?

Source for research:  The Value of Speech, Debate and Theatre Activities:  Making the Case for Forensics by Kevin Minch, NFHS Publications, 2006.