Forensics coach honored with national award




Russ Tidwell, Garden City High School forensics and debate coach, has been selected as the 2012-13 National Federation of State High School Associations Outstanding Speech/Debate/Theater Educator Award state recipient.

Tidwell said he's humbled by the recognition and owes it to outstanding students and supportive staff.

"It's nice to be honored. I always kind of figure that an award that you don't have to apply for is a cool thing. It's nice to be seen as somebody doing something for the activity across the state," he said.

Tidwell has been teaching students at Garden City High School for 19 years, and he has a teaching philosophy.

"It can be summed up in the following three statements: Every student can learn, learning is a lifelong process, and the most important thing teachers do is to inspire students to learn how to learn," he said.

He has served as the head debate and forensics coach since 2004 and has taught classes in debate, advanced debate, speech, acting, forensics, advanced forensics, senior project and dual credit public speaking. He also has mentored 15 new coaches in western Kansas during his tenure, according to a release from USD 457.

On the state level, Tidwell has accepted numerous leadership roles for the Kansas State High School Activities Association. In 1998 and 2008, he served as host manager of the state debate championships. For 13 years, he has served on the 6A debate championship tab room committee. He has qualified 72 6A state two-speaker debate competitors, with more than 10 teams qualifying for elimination rounds. In 2009 and 2010, his students were the 6A state speech runners-up and in 2011 took home the 6A state speech championship. His speech program has produced 20 individual state champions or finalists across all 12 state events. He was named to the Kansas Debate Coaches Invitational Hall of Fame in 2010.

On the national level, Tidwell has been active in the National Forensics League. In Kansas, he has served on the Western Kansas NFL District Committee for the past 10 years. In 2009, he became an NFL Triple Diamond coach. In 2011-12, Garden City was the Western Kansas NFL leading chapter.

He served four years on the NFL National Tournament Tab staff.

All new nominations, plus selected past recipients, are considered for state, sectional or citation awards. When reviewing the nominations, the federation speech committee looks at a number of criteria, including overall contributions, years of service both curricular and co-curricular, organization and continuance of an activity program, significant and ongoing contribution to the field, and contributions to the profession both in and out of the state.

The laurel was first given by the federation in 1988, when seven individuals received sectional awards. Since that time, 174 sectional and 264 state awards have been presented. Added to those totals for 2012-13 are seven sectional awards and 16 state awards.

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