The Speech and Debate club partakes in their weekly Monday meetings, discussing the agenda for the upcoming state tournament. BVH’s Speech and Debate program is one of the only in the regional league that does not have an elective class devoted to the activity. Photo by Simon Vaillancourt


Samuel Saez


International Baccalaureate English Higher Level teacher and Speech and Debate club advisor Eric J. Helle will now teach Speech and Theater seventh period during the 2017-2018 school year. After 19 years of working at Bonita Vista High School, and contemplating whether he wanted to devote his time to a Speech and Debate course, Helle decided to establish the Speech and Theater course in exchange for his Theory of Knowledge class.

“This is my seventh year [advising] speech and debate and it has taken me a long time to come to the point where I really want to have a class and bring in a new generation of kids. It was a really tough decision and it was really a decision that a lot of people pushed me towards. Specifically other teachers that are in programs in other high schools like the [Helix High School]  coach and the [Carlsbad High School] coach, but also the parents here at Bonita kept asking if Speech and Debate could be a class and at the end of every year, I thought why not,” Helle said.

After committing to his decision, Helle submitted his application for a new course to BVH Principal Bettina Batista, who after reviewing and approving it, sent the application to a district committee in charge of determining new courses. Now that the class has been accepted, Helle will be able to reach more students than he did before.

“My goal for the class is to open up to people who have been interested [in the Speech and Debate program]. Every year we get so many freshmen that are interested in Speech and Debate but then shy off because it is an extracurricular. Every year fear blows them out and the class will be an opportunity to get them in and get their fear filters removed and let them experience the great rewards of speaking publicly,” Helle said.

The new class also represents opportunity for individuals who have already participated in Speech and Debate. Junior and Vice President of Debate Gilbert Neuner, for example, plans to join the seventh period class second semester of his senior year.

“I am absolutely stoked. I feel like one of the major things that has put us behind other big debate schools like [Carlsbad High School] and Canyon Crest Academy is the fact that they have a class and we don’t. With a class we have a lot more time to work and that would also grant us access to resources that we did not have before which would really even the playing field,” Neuner said.

According to senior and Vice President of Speech Mary Talamantez, the curriculum will most likely result in more successful individuals. This year the club already sent eight students to nationals at the different tournaments despite not having a course for preparation. Helle plans on focusing on the competitive nature of speech and debate.

“My vision of the curriculum is not to overwhelm with a lot of different assignments, it’s going to require quality work. There will be a small requirement to perform where the letter grade is attached to how well they do and how well they do is based not on what place they come in, it’ll be based on whether the judge thinks you are a good speaker or not. The grade is that extra incentive to show up and be the best you possibly can,” Helle said.

Helle hopes to help the speech and debate culture of the school grow by incorporating the new class and allowing it to collaborate with the Speech and Debate club, in doing so, the Speech and Debate program as a whole will have access to more time to practice and review together.

“I think this is going to be incredibly positive for the club. To have a program that is going to meet every single day is going to really help reinforce everything that they learn, but on top of that, it’s going to build a stronger sense of community. As a club right now, we’re all about coming together and learning things together, which can be even bigger and larger once we become a class,” Talamantez said.

Students are given flexibility as it is not obligatory to join both the class and the club simultaneously.The creation of the class will shape the future of Speech and Debate as it will no longer be solely a club.

“I am past the halfway mark, so I have maybe 10 to 12 years left as a teacher. I look at what I have built in Speech and Debate and I want it to outlast me, I want Speech and Debate to be around after I am gone. I want it to be a real crucial part of our school culture. The most important thing is to make Speech and Debate and its offerings part of our culture and vocabulary,” Helle said.