In recognition of her contributions to the Speech and Debate program at Round Rock High School, longtime and recently retired educator Debbie Johnson was recently inducted into the Texas Forensics Association (TFA) Hall of Fame.
The honor is reserved for educators who have enhanced speech and debate programming and who have had a positive impact within their campus community. The process, which begins with a nomination from a fellow TFA member, is tedious and Johnson joins a select number of educators who have been selected to be included in the hall of fame.
“I am humbled by the honor,” Johnson said. “It was an amazing surprise.”
Spending almost three decades as a staple of the Round Rock High School Speech and Debate Program before retiring in May 2018, she clearly remembers why she chose to pursue a passion for speech and debate education.
“I chose speech and debate because of the experiences I had while participating for a small rural high school in Texas,” Johnson said. “Those experiences developed in me a confidence and opened up a world that I could never have imagined. I wanted to bring those same opportunities to other students and help them make a difference in the world.”
It was Johnson’s goals as a teacher that drove her to give her best each day in the classroom and helped shape her lessons. They were lessons of confidence, overcoming fears and empowering students to focus on the ability to effectively communicate thoughts and ideas to any audience. Seeing students come into their own and grow as individuals as communicators have also led to some of her proudest moments as an educator.
“I think the biggest highlights for me as an educator were when those timid students finally got up in class and gave a speech, who made an argument and took a stand,” Johnson said. “They may never have won a trophy or even gone to a tournament, but there is huge satisfaction in watching a student learn that they can do more than they think they can. To watch them start to believe in themselves.”
With pride in both her students and the advancements they’ve been able to achieve together for the Round Rock Speech and Debate program, Johnson continues to show gratitude for those who have allowed her the ability to teach and help students reach their best.
“As a once scared little girl from West, Texas, who wanted to make a difference, I am thankful. I’m thankful to Round Rock ISD for their support,” Johnson said. “I’m thankful to Maria Hilsabeck for inspiring me to be a better teacher. I’m thankful to all the parents who over so many weekends over so many years let me travel with their children. It has been an honor.”