“If I am as good as the other winners, I need to continue to work for it – to earn it. And I plan to.” – Sam Maurer
After coaching at Emporia State for 10 years, Sam Maurer, instructor and director of debate, was recently recognized as Collegiate Teacher of the Year by the Kansas Speech Communication Association. The award is given to members for their lifelong service to the profession of speech education at the university level.
“I wanted to coach because I love teaching, and debate, I think, is a special kind of test for a teacher unlike any other,” Maurer said. “If a team breaks a new argument about Lacanian psychoanalytic political critique, or an argument about the earth cooling and heating cycles, then I have usually 15 minutes to explain those arguments to them so that they can win.”
Maurer said that debate is much more technical and competitive than most people might think because it is about how best to get a point across, using academic training to do research and requires being a good listener.
“The reality is that intercollegiate competitive college debate is far closer to a sport than a club,” Maurer said.
Christopher Loghry, assistant debate coach and former debate team member, said that the reason he chose to join the debate team as a student was because of the competitive element and the opportunity to travel, meet smart people and learn new things. He said that Maurer is a “very smart” coach.
“He has a great eye towards strategy and is able to explain really complex things in ways that are really useful,” Loghry said.
Mark Casas, freshman sociology major and member of the debate team, said that Maurer is very good at overseeing the construction of the arguments.
“He constantly tests me and what I think so I can think about something more critically and think of how to argue something,” Casas said.
Maurer said that the toughest part of debate for him is the travel because he spends about two months every year in hotel rooms, and he also attends recruiting trips, camps and meetings. He said that the other tough part is losing because he is very competitive.
The most rewarding part for Maurer is seeing his students grow and become professional and confident adults. He said that whether they win or lose, the activity is also about creating relationships and becoming a family.
Loghry said that Maurer taught him how to be a good student, and without Maurer, he would not have graduated.
“(Maurer) continues to teach me how to be a good coach and how to foster a really positive culture inside a debate team,” Loghry said.
Casas said Maurer has also helped him become a better speaker “and definitely just a better thinker.”
Maurer said that the thing most needed by debaters is patience because debate is a difficult thing to learn. He advises future debaters to see it as a marathon rather than a sprint and to practice debating mentally.
“I am totally flattered, honored and mostly humbled by the award,” Maurer said. “If I am as good as the other winners, I need to continue to work for it – to earn it. And I plan to.”