Norm Leistikow Debate Community Memorial

Coach Norm Leistikow

In Memory of Coach Norman Alan Leistikow
December 29, 1940 – January 31, 2024

Norman A. Leistikow was an exceptional debate coach who touched the lives of many debaters in Minnesota. Jenny Achten, a former Bloomington Jefferson HS debater, and current debate coach at the Harker School, has initiated a campaign in his memory. She and the Leistikow family are seeking donations to the Minnesota Urban Debate League in Norm Leistikow’s memory. Your gifts will be used to continue promoting debate in Minnesota.

If you want to share a memory about Norm with your donation, we encourage you to share the information in this Google Form, and we’ll keep this page up as a living memorial for his contributions to debate.

Norm Leistikow’s memory lives on in all of the students he impacted. According to his obituary,

In 35 years as a social studies teacher, coach and cheerleader advisor in Bloomington, Minnesota, Norm left a lasting imprint on the lives of thousands of students. After the dismissal bell rang, Norm stayed for hours coaching and counseling his students. He was a mentor, friend, and father figure to any kid who needed one, and often gave his debaters a ride home at the end of a very long day. Then he devoted his weekends to taking them to tournaments, many of which they won.

Thank you for your generosity, both in making memorial gifts and in sharing your reflections.

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Kathy Alme

Memories of Coach Norm Leistikow

My daughter, Jenny Achten, was one of the many students whom Norm nurtured in debate. When I discovered that he & Marty had single-handedly fed sometimes 100 students & coaches at tournaments held at Jefferson HS with almost no budget to work with, I organized parents to help. He hosted debate ‘camps’ at his resort on Skunk Lake that I am sure created great memories for his debaters.

Norm was one of a kind. Dedicated to family, his students & debate, he had a wry & quirky sense of humor & deflected compliments and thank yous for how much he gave to his students. If there is a Debate Coach Hall of Fame, he should be at the top of the list.

Holly Victorson

Memories of Coach Norm Leistikow

It is not an exaggeration to say that Norm’s teaching and influence changed my life. I was fortunate to have taken the last debate class Norm taught at Jefferson HS prior to his retirement. At that time, I was an introverted freshman struggling to develop my confidence and footing in the world. Thanks to Mr. L’s encouragement, I decided to join the debate team my sophomore year of high school, and that decision transformed my life. I debated throughout the remainder of high school and into college, an experience that helped me develop skills that set me up for professional success as an engineer and, later, an attorney.

Through debate, I also cultivated relationships with people who remain close friends and colleagues over 20 years later, thanks to the many late nights and weekends in the trenches (not to mention a memorable trip to Skunk Lake with the JHS debate team). Norm encouraged his students to work hard while embracing the humor in everyday life, making his classroom and squadroom safe and enjoyable spaces for me and many other students. I will always be thankful for his guidance and encouragement to stand up and confidently assert my place in the world.

Jenny Achten

Memories of Coach Norm Leistikow

Norm (still “Mr. L” in my head) was an amazing teacher, mentor, and coach. I am incredibly lucky to have had him as my coach and would not be a teacher and debate coach myself without his influence. He was patient with us and very funny. We had tons of fun attending the team retreat at his resort, being driven to tournaments (while listening to terrible music), getting coached before rounds, and hanging out after school.

Norm also had a way of making a point–I remember him paying a tournament that he thought charged to much in quarters from our candy bar sales (very slowly stacked up as the line built behind him). He was a very smart, kind, and special person.


To learn more about how you can get your workplace involved in supporting the Minnesota Urban Debate League, email Amy Cram Helwich, Executive Director:

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