When Mindy Lattimore was hired as an English teacher at North Branch Area High School about 13 years ago, she was told promptly after accepting the position, “You will also be the head speech coach.”
That extra job duty was just fine with her.
Lattimore, a 1996 NBAHS graduate, was on the speech team during her high school years, and at the University of Minnesota, Duluth she minored in theater with an acting emphasis.
“Performing and speaking has always been in my blood,” she said.
Lattimore was excited to take the reins as the speech coach her first year at the high school, but she admittedly wasn’t well versed in every one of the 13 categories in which the students compete.
As a student, she focused only on a handful of categories.
“What I know now about the categories doesn’t even compare to what I knew my first year,” she said.
The 13 other speech coaches in Section 7AA have noticed the Lattimore’s progression as a coach and this year decided to name her the section’s speech coach of the year. She received that award at the section meet March 29 in Grand Rapids.
Lattimore said she was humbled by the award.
“It was really a huge honor,” she said. “We were not first or second place in the section, but I think they acknowledged how much I care about our kids and how much of a passion I have for helping them learn how to speak in public.”
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Lattimore was quick to point out the reason she was named speech coach of the year is because of students that comprise the North Branch team.
She said a prime example of how exemplary her speech students are is a memory she has of a middle school student on the team who received a poor score at a meet.
“She didn’t do as well as she wanted, and when she saw her scores, she started to cry,” Lattimore said. “She had just barely started crying, and then there were like five kids that surrounded her. She wrote me and email later that night saying, ‘I just wanted you to know how all of these teammates rallied around me.’ There were seniors gathering around this middle school girl they had just met, and by the end she was laughing and having a good time.”
Lattimore said her goal, as a speech coach, is to get her students to the point where they’ll be fluid, confident public speakers — a skill that they will undoubtedly use throughout their lives.
“I can’t think of a job in which you don’t have to talk to people,” she said.
She added that if anyone wants to see just how skilled and thoughtful her speech students are, they should come to a meet.
“If anybody wants to know how to be a good human being, come hang out with our speech kids on a Saturday,” she said. “You’ll leave inspired with how they treat each other, how respectful they are and how hard they work to be successful.”