Directors for STOA Academy 2015

Steven Vaughan started as a Community Judge for the NCFCA in the 2005-06 season. After seeing the quality of these homeschooled students, he wanted to get his children involved. There were no Speech and Debate club in the area with openings, so he started his own club in the 2007-08 season. Starting with 6 students that year, his club has grown to average 45-55 students now. Steven has been on staff for multiple tournaments since 2009, covering most every position including assistant TD for NITOC 2012. He is also on the STOA Policy Debate Committee, and is the director of this Coach’s Academy.

Maggie Carabelos was a founding member in establishing homeschool speech and debate in Colorado and has been at its core ever since. She was introduced to forensics in high school and coaches her speech and debate club with a strong focus on team-building and community service. Maggie has been coaching Homeschool Forensics since 1999 and has coached SALT for the past twelve years with national and regional recognition. Maggie also has extensive experience in tournament directing and administration. She served on the Directors Team for NITOC 2012 and as the Tournament Assistant for NITOC 2013 in her home state of Arkansas. Maggie currently serves on the STOA Policy Debate Committee.

Featured Speakers

Craig Smith, a native Californian, currently lives less than a mile from the home where he grew up. He met his wife, Julie, while they were both "Cast Members" at Disneyland, and are now the parents of six children. It was in 2000 that the Smiths first became aware of the life-changing world of homeschool speech and debate. After beginning as an inexperienced speech coach, Craig started their current club with two families meeting in the Smith family living room giving speeches on the hearth. Today the club is made up of 35 families, and is one of the five speech and debate clubs in Orange County. Craig and Julie have been the tournament directors for the Concordia Challenge in Irvine, California. In 2011, Craig became a member of the Stoa Individual Events Committee and is currently contributing as the committee chairperson. He loves to serve with his wife putting on tournaments, and was the tournament director for the 2014 NITOC. Craig is still employed at the Disneyland Resort as a manager of entertainment, currently in the Characters & Imaging department, which he views as his mission field.

TJ Harding was a co-founder and debate coach for Invictus Fides, one of the largest Stoa clubs in the country. She has coached Team Policy, Extemp and Parliamentary debate for almost a decade. While she thinks trophies are really cool, she believes that the real rewards are more often seen in the intangibles, like deeper understanding of truth and faith and the courage of well-reasoned convictions.

Mike Winther has participated in speech and debate activities as both coach and competitor. As a student, Mike has 6 years of competitive speech and debate experience in high school and college. He competed in team policy debate, Lincoln Douglass debate, extemporaneous speaking, impromptu, and radio broadcasting. As a coach, Mike and his wife Mary have coached a California homeschool club (Modesto Debate) for 14 years, competing in the HSLDA, NCFCA and Stoa leagues.

Mary Winther, along with her husband Mike, is the coach of Modesto Debate. Mary was a high school and college debater. Mike and Mary have been coaching Modesto Debate since 1999 and were involved in initial founding of Stoa. Mary is the former chair of the debate committee. Their club is located in Modesto CA.

Van Schalin has been involved in Christian homeschool speech and debate for over 12 years. He coached at two different clubs in San Diego in Limited Preparation, Interpretive and Platform speech events and in Team Policy Debate. Van has also been involved in administering tournaments at every level. Over the years, he performed almost every job there is to do at a tournament from trash clean up to Tournament Director at NITOC (sometimes they were one in the same). He readily states he could not have done any of these without the help of his wife Susan, and many faithful servants, and admits that he has never personally been in charge of hospitality (and that is a good thing).

Susan Schalin along with her husband Van, has been involved in the speech and debate world for over a dozen years. She has coached various speech topics, as well as served in most capacities at many tournaments. She and Van live in San Diego, California and have two children who managed to survive their parents' coaching techniques during their speech and debate careers. Susan and Van planned and directed the first two NITOCs in 2010 and 2011, as well as other local San Diego tournaments. Before raising and homeschooling their children, Susan worked as a pediatric ICU nurse at various children's' hospitals. Now, in her spare time, she enjoys event, party, and wedding planning, which she says is very similar to running tournaments.

Mark Russell lives near the state capitol of Jefferson City, Missouri. He and Sherri have raised three children on a small 80 acre farm in the Ozark region of the state. He has an undergraduate degree in agricultural journalism and two graduate degrees in education administration. Their home school speech and debate experiences have covered more than a decade where the family has served in many roles at local, state, regional and national tournaments. Working with other clubs in starting speech and debate groups and competitions has been a highlight for their family. Mark joined the STOA Board of Directors in 2012, and is the incoming President of the Board starting in September.

Angela Childress & her husband, Tim, live in Little Rock, Arkansas where all three of their children have participated in Christian homeschool speech & debate since 2007. She has coached home school students for over six years. Angela served on the Stoa Electronic Script Submission sub-committee in 2012 and on the Stoa I.E. Committee 2012-2014. She has served in various tournament capacities (including coordinating Judge Orientation, Script Submission, Judge Recruitment, Judge Greeters, & Ballot Administration) at multiple qualifying tournaments and NITOCs. Angela’s background includes being a high school team policy debater, receiving her Bachelor of Science in Industrial Management, and her Masters in Business Administration. She now focuses her time and attention on homeschooling and building up the next generation. She has a passion for seeing strong communication & critical thinking skills developed within young people that they may confidently speak & proclaim Christ.

Robert Kwong is a member of the Stoa Board of Directors and is the founder/coach, with his wife Susan, of the Imago Dei Speech & Debate Club in Thousand Oaks, CA. He has close to 30-years of experience practicing law primarily in the areas of environmental, natural resource and government law and has taught an environmental law course at California State University Northridge for the past 6 years. Robert’s appreciation for the discipline and clash of Lincoln Douglas Value debate is informed by a Biblical worldview and practice.

Katie Herche competed in speech and debate for three years in NCFCA, and two years on the college circuit. She placed 2nd in Team Policy Debate at the 2007 National Tournament with her partner Trevor Anderson. In college, she placed 1st in both Impromptu and Communication Analysis at the 2009 National Phi Rho Pi tournament. Since then, Katie has coached speech and debate for over eight years. Katie coaches the homeschool club Response, but has also coached at both public and private schools across multiple leagues. Katie married (former NCFCA rival and competitor) Logan Herche, and they currently live in Lodi, California. When she's not coaching speech and debate, Katie is a wedding photographer.

Larry Sparks is a commercial insurance agent in Colorado Springs, where he lives with his wife of twenty-eight years and their two sons. He is active in his church and as a Gideon. Back in the Reagan administration he competed in speech and debate in high school and college. He began Extemp and LD back in 1981. Throughout his professional career he has trained leaders on improving their communication skills. In 2005 he was introduced to the world of Homeschool Forensics when invited to be a community judge. In 2007 Colleen Enos and he launched RESOLVE Speech and Debate club. He has been coaching debate ever since. Although Resolve has enjoyed competitive success, the most rewarding experience is seeing young people learn to think critically, research thoroughly, and communicate passionately. Larry currently serves on Stoa's LD committee.

MelRae Ambs competed in speech & debate in high school, and has been coaching and leading a club in Texas since 2009. MelRae has directed numerous tournaments, filled many roles at tournaments across the country, and provides support for club leaders and parents across the nation through Yahoo groups, Facebook, and other social media. MelRae has a bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in communication, and ran her own computer training company. She ministers with her pastor husband, Robert, and their eight children through young adult leadership, evangelism, and church support. Although she’s been acting since kindergarten, it’s no act that Robert and MelRae highly value Stoa Speech & Debate and she’s honored to serve on the board.

Debbie Snyder is the mother of seven grown children who have all participated in speech and debate in the past. In 2011, Debbie was instrumental in bringing Stoa to Virginia. She has served on the Stoa Individual Events Committee from 2012-2015. Presently, she is a Team Policy, Parli, and Speech coach for Classical Cottage School in Winchester, VA. Historically, she has been involved in speech and debate as a parent, coach, and tournament director for the last eighteen years, eight years in California and ten years in Virginia.

Sandra Bateman has been involved with competitive speech for over 10 years with her three boys. Along with her husband and oldest son, she coaches Sword Speech Club in Colorado Springs. She has served on the Stoa Speech Committee for the past year.

Sue Danielson has been involved with speech and debate since 2006, as both a parent and speech coach. In addition, she is a club director in Washington as well serving on the state leadership team and leading tournaments. She currently also serves on the Stoa IE Speech Committee.

Leslie Martin has had the privilege of being a competitor, a community judge, and a coach. Competing in both NFL and UIL in high school, Leslie understands the embarrassment of unpreparedness, the frustration of nervousness, the wretchedness of defeat, and even on the rare occasion, the excitement of winning. Throughout the years, her love for the students and the competition has kept her active in Forensics for nearly 30 years. She is honored to be a Speech coach and serve on the Speech committee.

Isaac Harris comes from the great Northwest in a well-known hipster haven called Portland, Oregon. Through high school Isaac competed for 4 years in both the NCFCA and Stoa Speech and Debate. During that time he achieved considerable success including consecutive top 3 finishes nationally in debate, 4 consecutive top 15 speaker nationally, entrance into the Speech Hall of Champions, and was the first competitor ever to receive invitations in both styles of debate to both homeschool national championships.

As a coach, Isaac had the opportunity to work with several prestigious debate organizations and has, to date, worked with hundreds of students at the professional, collegiate, public school and homeschool level. In the previous competition season, not a single competitor he personally coached failed to qualify to their national championship. Isaac loves to train students to combine the truth with a charismatic style of communication in order to make a lasting impact.

Jeff Yeates has been serving in Tab rooms for close to a decade, and began serving as a Tab Director in 2009. He has served in NITOC Tab rooms since 2011, and was the NITOC Tab Director for 2012. Jeff has used his MBA and programming background to create a number of spreadsheets to aid with tournament administration and tabroom tasks. These include both random question generators for Mars Hill and Apologetics, Flowpad file conversion, NITOC Club Award and NITOC Double Elimination. Jeff and his wife, Laura, are grateful for the wonderful fruits that speech and debate have produced in their two sons, Callan (26) and Branden (20). Although no longer actively involved in Stoa leadership, Jeff continues to provide tab support in a more limited role, and enjoys still participating at local tournaments.

Laura Yeates took her first ballot as a parent judge in 2005, when she was still learning the foreign language of 1AC’s, 2NR’s, OO’s, and IE’s. Before long she began serving in various areas of tournament administration, and directed her first tournament in 2008, the year her oldest son Callan graduated from high school. In 2010, Laura and her husband Jeff began attending Stoa tournaments with their younger son Branden, and were so pleased with the experience that she directed Colorado’s first Stoa tournament later that year. In 2011 she was elected to Stoa’s Board. During her time as a Director she served in various capacities until her term expired in August 2014, including Secretary of the Board, and NITOC 2013 Tournament Director at John Brown University in Arkansas. She loved the many opportunities these jobs gave her to know and partner with Stoa families around the country, and is grateful for the blessing of friends and community that speech and debate has provided. Her hope for the future is encouraged every time she watches Stoa students take the platform, and this year she is particularly pleased with the new title she has taken on: for the first time ever, her tournament badges now read Community Judge!