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By Anna Zwahlen

Instructing a class of novice debaters, speech and communications instructor Shawn Rafferty gestures to a mapped out argument. On the board, the list displays this year’s current debate topic around NATO and international tensions. “Mill Valley is a very good school,” said Rafferty, “I look forward to the opportunity and the challenges of working here.”

New speech and debate coach looks forward to a challenging year

Speech and debate coach Shawn Rafferty anticipates a great year of progress and competition

Mill Valley News: So what did you do before this? How long have you been a debate coach?

Shawn Rafferty: I’ve been a debate coach, I guess this is my 21st year. I spent the last seven years in Jenks, Oklahoma coaching speech and debate. And then before that I was 13 years at Manhattan, Kansas.

MVN: You’re gonna take over a pretty messy program here, so what are some goals that you’ve got for Mill Valley?

SR: My goals are really not much different than any other year. Try to establish stability and a routine and then try to be as competitive in rounds as you can be with the experience and skills that you have. So just a base level understanding of debate and then we’ll proceed from there.

MVN: Awesome. So are you scared or worried about anything?

SR: No, I don’t think I don’t think I would describe anything that I’d be scared or worried about. I mean, I’m familiar with Kansas. I haven’t coached Kansas City before, but I’ve coached in Kansas before, so it’s all fairly familiar.

MVN: So why did you choose to work at Mill Valley? 

SR: My understanding is Mill Valley is a very good school and I look forward to the opportunity and the challenges of working here and I and it seemed like a good fit for me.

MVN: How will Mill Valley be different from your previous job?

SR: My previous job, the students, we had 4000 students in the school and Manhattan was even bigger than that school so this is the smallest school I’ve ever taught at. So from that aspect, it is a little bit different. Yeah, I would say that’s probably one of the biggest differences: just the size of the school.

MVN: So in terms of actual debate, what do you plan to change about it? Last year, we did primarily policy. We touched a little bit on Lincoln Douglas, but we didn’t go into any tournaments for that.

SR: I would say like, as far as policy bait first semester goes, I mean, I don’t know how much I’ll change. My style has primarily been a more policy oriented, less critical part of debate during the forensic season in Oklahoma, LD and PFD were far bigger than policy debate was so I’m very familiar with those things. But also just in forensics in general. You know, I really enjoy forensics. I really enjoy policy debate. So I look forward to kind of growing both of those programs and probably just getting people out as much as humanly possible.

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