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NSDA National Educator of the Year Finalists

The National Speech & Debate Association is proud to continue the National Educator of the Year award. Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, the NSDA is pleased to recognize individual state winners. Congratulations!

From this distinguished group of educators, five national finalists have been selected (see below). On March 2, National Speech and Debate Education Day, one of these finalists will be named the 2018 NSDA National Educator of the Year!


2018 NSDA National Educator of the Year Finalists

State Educator School City
New Jersey Mary Gormley Montville High School Montville
Kentucky Steve Meadows Danville High School Danville
Illinois Tara Tate Glenbrook South High School Glenview
California Sal Tinajero Santa Ana Unified School District Santa Ana
Arkansas Rosie Valdez Little Rock Central High School Little Rock
About the Selection Process


  • Extended to November 15, 2017 – Deadline for submitting nominations.
  • Nominations will be accepted from fellow educators, administrators, school board members, or parents for the State Educator of the Year Awards. Additionally, state speech and debate organizations may nominate an individual from their state who is also an NSDA member.
  • Nominations must include the official nomination form, a recommendation letter from the submitter, and one additional letter of recommendation from another individual familiar with the candidate’s impact on speech and debate education.
  • Once the nomination period has closed, the NSDA Director of Community Engagement, along with members of the selection committee, will review all applications.
  • December 1, 2017 – Announcement of the State Educator of the Year winners.
  • December 15, 2017 – Deadline for state winners to submit a personal statement (more information below).
  • January 15, 2018 – Announcement of the National Educator of the Year finalists.
  • February 1, 2018 – Deadline for national finalists to submit portfolios (more information below).
  • March 2, 2018 – The national winner will be announced on National Speech and Debate Education Day!

Criteria for Selection

To be eligible, nominees must:

  • Be a high school or middle school coach member of the National Speech & Debate Association.
  • Be an active classroom teacher in the field of speech and/or debate.
  • Have a minimum of five years of classroom experience.
  • Demonstrate broader contributions to the field of education outside of their own classroom (e.g., presenting at an education conference; writing curriculum and/or education standards for speech and debate; publishing articles on the educational benefits of speech and debate; instructional coaching to non-speech and debate teachers on how to incorporate speech and debate into their curriculum).
  • Provide significant and ongoing support to others in the field of speech and debate education (e.g. mentorship, peer observation, modeling lessons).
  • Model the Association’s Coaches Code of Ethics.

Minimum Requirements

Each State Educator of the Year will be considered for the national award. State winners will not be announced unless quality nominations that both meet our criteria and demonstrate and exceptional standard have been submitted. Incomplete nominations or a lack of competition does not guarantee a state winner.

Personal Statement from State Winners

Each state winner will be asked to write a personal statement about the role that speech and debate plays in the education of a student. In 1,250 to 1,500 words, they will write about the ways they leverage 21st century learning skills to enhance the learning environment of their classroom to meet the needs of their student. This statement is due December 15.

Portfolio from National Finalists

Each national finalist will be asked to compile a portfolio highlighting their commitment to 21st century learning. The portfolio should include five sample educational materials as well as the personal statement from when they were identified as a state winner (see above). The portfolio must include at least one lesson plan and one assessment. The portfolio should not exceed 30 pages of content. The format of the 30 pages is not meant to limit you to a PDF document. The portfolios will be offered to the NSDA membership as a resource for best practices. National finalists are announced by January 15, and the portfolios are due February 1.

Renee Motter and Scott Wunn

Renee C. Motter, 2017 National Educator of the Year, with NSDA Executive Director J. Scott Wunn