As a debate, forensics and speech teacher and coach at Olathe Northwest High School, Josh Anderson spends a lot of time preparing students to compete and win. He has done his job so well that Anderson finds himself the winner of a national competition honoring those in his profession.
The National Speech and Debate Association has named Anderson the 2015 National Coach of the Year. This interscholastic speech and debate organization is the largest one serving middle, high school and collegiate students in the United States. Anderson was chosen from a field of 40 candidates nationwide and was presented his award last week at the National Speech and Debate Tournament in Dallas.
Anderson said he couldn’t believe it when he found out that he had been named coach of the year.
“I was shocked and amazed,” said Anderson. “I work in a profession with hundreds of coaches that are just as hardworking as me and who have dedicated their lives to this activity. So for me to be selected was a surprise and tremendous honor.”
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Anderson has taught at Olathe Northwest High School since it opened in 2003. In the time he has been there, the school has seen their speech and debate program grow considerably. It’s received national recognition, having been ranked a Top 10 Program of Excellence by the National Speech and Debate Association. In addition, Olathe Northwest High School has won the Kansas Novice Debate Championship the last three years in a row.
Students at Olathe Northwest High School attribute much of their success to Anderson’s leadership.
“He is dedicated to making every student feel like he or she belongs,” said Olathe Northwest High School freshman Cameron Jones in a written statement. “He strives to make all of his students feel welcome in the community that we call speech and debate.”
A committee made up of members of the National Speech and Debate Association board of directors selected the Coach of the Year winner. But Anderson’s students also played a key role in Anderson receiving the honor. They nominated him for the award.
“I think that this level of kindness and thoughtfulness on their part is typical of the type of student we get in debate and forensics,” said Anderson. “We get students who are sincerely committed to improving the lives of those around them as well as their own.”
The coach of the year award is just the latest accolade for Anderson. In 2007, he won the prestigious Kansas Teacher of the Year award and became a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year honor.
Anderson is quick to credit the hard work of his assistant coaches at Olathe Northwest High School for helping him achieve his latest honor. He also says he’s found success in teaching and coaching because it is work that he genuinely loves to do.
“I know my strengths and weaknesses and I know this is what I am good at and this is what I love doing,” said Anderson. “And when you love something and you are passionate about it, you never stop working.”
Anderson says another reason that he and the debate program at Olathe Northwest have been successful is that the group is such a tight-knit family, spending countless hours together practicing before, during and after school as well as traveling to and from tournaments together.
He said it’s that building of relationships that has helped his students to learn and grow together. And it’s the students themselves who have brought him so much personal happiness as a teacher.
“They constantly make me laugh,” said Anderson. “That’s what I enjoy most about my job, how much joy and entertainment they bring to my life.”