Notre Dame middle-school teacher named state debate coach of the year

LeAnne Schmidt honored on Mackinac Island by the Michigan Speech Coaches Incorporated (MSCI).

(From a press release issued by the MSCI)

Mackinac Island, Michigan – June 4, 2018 – Red geraniums, white tulips and America’s longest porch served as the backdrop of a crowning achievement for Notre Dame Preparatory and Marist Academy debate coach LeAnne Schmidt as she was awarded Debate Coach of the Year honors. The Coach of the Year awards take place each year in conjunction with the Michigan Speech Coaches Incorporated (MSCI) Mackinac Conference and Tournament. The annual awards ceremony was held May 19, 2018, as the culminating event to a weekend that celebrated all that was great about speech activities in the State of Michigan at the beautifully historic Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island,
After a weekend filled with speech, interpretation, and debate competitions, as well as professional development seminars, the conference ended with a special awards ceremony in the theatre of the Grand Hotel. Approximately seven hundred audience members, consisting of MSCI board members, parents, students and alumni, were on hand to celebrate the award and applaud Mrs. Schmidt for her outstanding achievement.
This year marks Schmidt’s twenty-fifth year of teaching and nineteenth coaching speech and debate. Currently, Schmidt is the head debate coach at Notre Dame Preparatory and Notre Dame Marist Academy in Pontiac, Mich., and teaches 8th-grade individuals and societies as well as 8th-grade design in NDPMA's middle school.

After receiving the award, Schmidt said she was humbled by the recognition.  

"The fact that coaches with years of experience and success in the field nominated me makes it that much more of an honor," she said. "This comes from people who know how difficult the task can be and still think I do it well. This was the fifth trip to the Mackinac Conference for our school, but the first time for our middle school students. My younger daughter happened to be a competitor this year and was sitting next to me when the award was announced. What a great experience!”

When asked to explain the value and importance of speech activities in the state of Michigan, Schmidt went on to say, "If I had my way, every student in school would be involved in forensics. They will all find a time that they depend upon being well-spoken, whether it is for presentations, fundraising, sales, or even a job or college interview."
Schmidt's program at Notre Dame regularly qualifies students for the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament, where the highest scorer gies to congress semi-finals. Furthermore, Schmidt has been recognized by the National Speech and Debate Association for having the largest middle-school forensics program in the country three years running.

She sums up her philosophy on coaching and teaching debate at Notre Dame. 

"Evidence-based argumentation and an insistence on understanding both sides of an issue has always been part of our debate team approach," she said. "It's also become an important theme of in-class instruction with our Big Questions debate units in 8th and 9th grade, and now 7th grade for the coming year."

Schmidt is a founding member of the Great Lakes Debate League, a National Forensic League professional forensic coach, a National Forensic League professional forensic educator, and an NSDA advanced professional speech and debate educator. Schmidt also serves as an assistant to the clerk of congress for the NCFL Grand National Tournament, has been a part of the tabulation room staff for eight years and has held an assisting role for three years. Schmidt also is the host of the annual Luck of the Irish Invitational held on St. Patrick's Day weekend for the past seven years at NDP.
She also has created the NDP Summer Debate Institute, which is a weeklong summer camp for congressional debate held on the campus of NDPMA, which expanded last year to include public forum debate, and is expanding again this year. For the summer of 2018, she is working in partnership with Amy Johnson, from Eastern Michigan University, to offer work in all individual event categories as well as debate for The Edge camp.  

To learn more about Michigan Speech Coaches Incorporated, visit

Comments or questions?
Follow Notre Dame on Twitter at @NDPMA.
About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at