By Jill Fox
In a surprise recognition, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teacher Dr. Jacob Abraham was awarded Debate Coach of the Year by the Broward County Public Schools Debate Initiative.
During the annual Speaking for the Future Virtual “Lunch-In” and student showcase, Principal Kefford surprised Dr. Abraham with the recognition.
He recalls sitting in his classroom, watching the luncheon, through a series of awards.
“I noticed the principal was hanging outside my classroom, and then they showed my classroom door on camera, and Principal Kefford came in and presented me with the award,” he said.
He even received an introduction by Superintendent Robert Runcie.
“This year’s recipient is not only one of our exceptional debate coaches but a former competitor and debate-lifer as well,” said Runcie.
Dr. Abraham has strong roots in South Florida. He grew up in North Miami, attended Dr. Michael M. Krop High School, and his parents still live in the area.
He came to Marjory Stoneman Douglas in 2018 after working as a director of forensics for speech and debate and earning his Ph.D. in communications.
“I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember,” he said, “I started doing speech and debate in middle school, and it’s just a natural fit.”
Besides coaching debate classes at MSD, he teaches dual enrollment communication studies classes for Broward College.
Living in Coral Springs helps him keep up with all of his roles and responsibilities at the high school, including co-coaching boys and girls water polo, being on the faculty council and the school advisory committee.
“I do pretty much anything that they’ll let me do,” he said. “I love being here and living close to the school.”
The Debate Broward Initiative is a partnership between local businesses and school-based debate programs within Broward County, including over 200 schools and 15,000 students. All proceeds are used to support students in their competitive debate endeavors.
Principal Michelle Kefford said the entire Marjory Stoneman Douglas family is so proud of Dr. Abraham and his amazing accomplishment.
“It speaks volumes about what he does for his students and the speech and debate program at MSD,” she said.
Dr. Abraham explained that with Covid, all speech and debate tournaments have taken place online via Zoom, and students are placed in a breakout room the same way they would walk to a room on campus.
But he chooses not to focus on the competitive nature of the subject.
“Our students win trophies, but to me, the work that they’re doing in the process, and the level of intellectual engagement that they have in the classroom is way more important than the success that they find in any particular tournament.”
Dr. Abraham especially enjoys the freedom and creativity with the advanced debate class students.
“They’re building themselves a future that will make them way better in college and maybe even graduate school,” he said.
He likes that he can teach almost anything he wants because he’s teaching them skills more than content.
“Basically, I’m teaching them to formulate ideas and arguments and defend those ideas and arguments, and those skills transcend topics — You don’t have to be an expert in any one thing to learn how to learn one thing and then be able to communicate about it.”
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- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She has worked in public relations and television for over 20 years. Fox lives in Parkland with her husband and their two children.
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