Interview with Coach Paula Boe: Suéñalo, Deséalo, Hazlo

Paula Boe portrait

Image Credit: University of St. Thomas Digital Media Arts


DREAM IT. WISH IT. DO IT. Paula Boe has been teaching for 30 years, and we are so grateful that she’s spent the last third of her teaching career with us. Her work has brought the dream of Spanish Debate to life in St. Paul! In her 11 years at Highland Park, and 9 years coaching the Spanish Debate League there, Spanish teacher Paula Boe has connected countless kids with the crucial skills and community our program provides. Thanks for all you do, Ms. Boe! 


What is the most rewarding part of being a coach?


I was not a debater myself, but I have learned a lot working with our Spanish speaking students.  It makes me very happy, is a good challenge, and is a great way to form a community for those that speak Spanish in the school so they can improve their bilingual abilities.


What have your students taught you?


I have learned a lot from my students. They have audacity.  Some are very shy at the beginning, then after a few practices and tournaments, they have a lot more confidence and a better sense of feeling like an expert and like they can do it.  I have learned that it’s necessary to take risks and motivate one another to improve.


It’s interesting to see the change between the first practice and the last tournament. There is confidence, there is laughter, there is community, there is connection, there is self-pride.  This is something that is very fun for me.  Not all tournaments are successful, but both winning and losing provides an opportunity to learn and all of my students keep moving forward.  It’s a great opportunity to form a community and have an academic and social experience with debate.

In your time as a coach, what has surprised you the most?


There aren’t many opportunities to see students debate both sides of any topic.  In one debate round, they have to debate the affirmative side, and then just minutes later they have to debate the negative side. For me, this is very difficult, but they make it seem easy – even though it isn’t! It is just surprising to me how well they can switch from one side to the other, and it makes me feel really proud of my students. 


What do you see as the value of the Spanish Debate League? 


One of the most important values is education.  To learn about a debate topic can open doors to further learning for students.  This is extremely important.  It’s also crucial to learn how a community and team works and how to interact with others in society.  Regardless of differing opinions, we are all a part of the same experience.


I think about 5 aspects of learning that are important to me as a Spanish teacher: community, culture, connection, comparison, and communication. These are also the 5 most important things for moving forward with debate, education, and life.