Capping Off a Spectacular Season: 2020 MS Coaches of the Year

MS Coaches of the Year

Our middle school debate tournaments may have ended before we were ready to be done, but it was still a spectacular season! We served more middle school students than in any previous year – even with the abbreviated schedule.

It was only possible because of strong leadership from our coaches. They’re recruiters, helping more students imagine themselves as debaters. They’re experts, explaining the complexities of the topic and debate format at every level. And they’re advocates, promoting debate within schools. Coaches guide students through victories and defeats, and now it’s time for us to celebrate them. It wasn’t easy to narrow down the choices to honor this year’s Teacher Coach of the Year and Student Coach of the Year, but we chose to award three outstanding coaches: Teacher Coach of the Year, Kari Johnson; Student Coach of the Year, Sandy Bolton; and Student Coach of the Year, Simon Jarcho. 

Learn more about why these coaches inspire us! 

KARI JOHNSON – Teacher Coach of the Year 

Urban Debate WTMS

The 2020 Washington Tech MS-Middle School Team and coach Kari Johnson.

Our 2020 Teacher Coach of the Year is Kari Johnson from Washington Technology Magnet School in St Paul. 

Kari and the WTMS middle school program are both in their second year with the MNUDL. In that short time, Kari and her student coaches have built a team of ~25 extremely active debaters who compete regularly and enthusiastically. 

She’s created an inclusive and balanced environment where students learn debate but also build social connections. Kari actively applies her pedagogical training as a teacher to plan and manage her debate classrooms, and the results show. Even in their second year, the WTMS middle school program has become a strong and reliable pipeline of future high school debaters for the WTMS high school program. Kari is great at recruiting, teaching, delegating, and making sure everything runs on time and smoothly.


Kari says: 

“My favorite memories from coaching this year is witnessing the unbridled excitement of 6th graders when they debate!

Going forward, I hope my students will continue to ask probing questions and have evidence to cite their claims. And of course I hope that they will join debate next year – no matter where they might land!”

We had so many great student coaches this year that it was really difficult to narrow it down to just one student – so we didn’t! 

SANDY BOLTON – Student Coach of the Year


Keewaydin Debate

The Keewaydin Debate team is led by Sandy Bolton (right).

Our first Student Coach of the Year is Sandy Bolton, a Roosevelt High School senior debater coaching at Lake Nokomis Keewaydin in Minneapolis. She’s positive, enthusiastic, and understanding, all while holding students to a high standard. Sandy has been an excellent example of a high school student bringing their debate knowledge and passion to middle school students. Her detailed and insightful feedback is not just appreciated by her team, but also by all the teams she judges.

Sandy says: 

“My favorite memories from coaching this year are the practices. We’d talk about the highlights, shout out the things people did well, and celebrate each other’s successes. It was always really wholesome!

Going forward, I hope my students do high school debate for Roosevelt. But, even if they don’t, I just hope that they feel more confident in themselves and their abilities. Debate taught me how to speak up for myself, and I hope that they also feel confident enough to do that more than they maybe would at the beginning of their debate careers.”


SIMON JARCHO – Student Coach of the Year 

Urban Debate Partners

Simon poses with debate partner Isabel Kleckner, who was the 2019 Middle School Student Coach of the Year.

Simon Jarcho is also a Student Coach of the Year! Simon is a senior debater at Washburn High School and coach at Field Middle School in Minneapolis. It was Simon who suggested creating a team at Field, his former middle school. Over the last three years, Simon has been indispensable in building the debate knowledge, passion, and inclusivity of the Field debate team. The team had over 30 students this year, with many debating at the JV and Varsity levels. Simon has been an excellent student coach and a great role model for his students.

Simon says:

“The best part about debate is the community. Seeing middle schoolers that I taught making new friends and new memories made me really excited to be a coach.

Going forward, I just hope my debaters get what they want out of the activity. Everyone comes, stays, and leaves for different reasons and I hope that they find purpose and value in the activity just like I did.”


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