New debate teacher fills big shoes

Mr. Phillip Helt has some big shoes to fill his first year teaching at Rockhurst. When Mr. Donald Ramsey announced his retirement, the school had to find someone to replace the speech and debate coach of the last four decades, who earned Rockhurst an excellent track record and national recognition. Rockhurst decided that his replacement would be Mr. Helt, a former Hawklet and student of Mr. Ramsey’s.

“No one is ever going to be able to replace Mr. Ramsey,” said Mr. Helt, “Because he had such an impact on Rockhurst.”

The task of replacing a speech and debate team with such an excellent record at Rockhurst can seem intimidating. In fact, Mr. Helt was one of Mr. Ramsey’s students during his 39 year teaching career at the Rock. Mr. Helt credits Mr. Ramsey for teaching him how love and embrace speech and debate.

“So much of what I do is influenced by what he taught he, what I was taught in college and inner desire,” Helt said, “My hope is that I can make Mr. Ramsey proud with the program that he gave so everything to.”

For decades, expectations have been huge for the Rockhurst speech and debate team because of its consistent success, and those expectations have not changed since Mr. Helt’s arrival. Mr. Helt plans on building on the team’s success by teaching with a variety of techniques that he picked up as a student of Mr. Ramsey’s, and some that he has implemented himself.

“I love to make kids feel confident,” Mr. Helt said, “I push my students to have high expectations; as long as I can teach them to love the activity, then they can share the same high expectations that I have for them. Also, we rely a lot on peer coaching, which helps create a positive community.”

Since taking over the speech and debate team, Mr. Helt has led the team to over forty medals, trophies and plaques. Mr. Helt anticipates future success for the team, especially since there have already been four students who have placed first in competition, and some freshmen who have competed and placed in varsity tournaments.

“Since no members of the team qualified for nationals last year, and Rockhurst is generally expected to qualify at least one student, kids this year have a noticeable drive wanting to qualify for state and nationals,” said Mr. Helt, who has high hopes for the future of the speech and debate team.

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