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At Pine Island, debate team reshuffle made a compelling argument – Post Bulletin

PINE ISLAND – A small group of students climb onto a large stage with their coach.

This fall, Pine Island Secondary revived its debating team after not having one for more than a decade. It is one of the few schools of its size in Southeast Minnesota to compete.

And now that season one is over, they had a chance to look back on their first year.

“I feel like Pine Island, sort of like Lake Wobegon in Minnesota,” said debate coach Michael Jeffrey. “We have exceptionally bright and motivated students, and (we thought) the idea of ​​being able to argue competitively would appeal to many of them.”

In the debate, students must argue either for or against bills being introduced in Congress. Students are then assessed and points awarded based on their performance. The Pine Island team competed in five tournaments this season.

School officials aren’t sure how long it’s been since the school had a debating team. Activities director Lisa Myran-Schutte said it was at least 10 to 15 years ago.

“We had a debate in the office today, the last time we had a debate,” Myran-Schutte told the school board in June when the district approved the team’s formation. “It really gives our students a chance to build a foundation for success at any point where they need to speak publicly.”

Jeffrey led the debate team’s return. Since the school already had a language team, it seemed like a logical step. When he was at school, the two activities ran together throughout the year.

In Minnesota, on the other hand, the debate takes place in the fall and the speech takes place in the spring.

The fact that speech and debate can go hand-in-hand doesn’t mean there wasn’t a learning curve for the Pine Island team. The students listened to recordings of previous tournaments to get an idea of ​​what was going on. As a judge, Jeffrey had to learn how to match his speech coaching skills to those needed for the debate.

“It’s very different than judging language,” he said.

Senior Jesse Olson said it would have been nice to have had the opportunity to participate in debates earlier in his high school career, but it was still a good experience. After all, skills prepare students for life in general, not just their careers.

“It gives you the opportunity to answer questions with your own thoughts,” Olson said.

With a strength of only four students, the school is one of the smallest competitors in the country. Aside from the larger Rochester schools, Kasson-Mantorville is the only other team in the area, according to the Minnesota State High School League.

“I feel like it’s been a really good debut year,” said sophomore Nikkole Collins. “We did a lot better than I think many of us thought.”

Speaking of, there are tournaments nearby that smaller schools can take part in. For debate, however, the tournaments are centered in the Twin Cities, which requires schools in the greater Minnesota area to travel constantly.

Jeffrey said he sees the program growing in the future and that it will most likely accommodate some middle school students as well.

Like Olson, MollyAnn Lechner, a sophomore on the team, spoke about how the program goes beyond mere academics.

“You learn a lot, especially professionalism and acting maturity,” she said. “You get a lot of life skills.”

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