Christine Adams, director of debate at Truman and Van Horn high schools, has been coaching students and creating champions in the Independence School District for 21 years, with a teaching record stretching past that, and has announced she’s retiring after this year. However, her passion for what she does won’t be allowing her to spend retirement lounging around.
Adams said she originally saw a few more years of teaching in her future, but when opportunity came from the Ronald Reagan Education Foundation, she knew she had to say yes. She is taking a job as the national project coordinator for the foundation’s Great Communicator of Debate series, a collection of high school debate competitions across the United States.
As the director of debate, teaching at Van Horn High School in the morning and Truman High School in the afternoon, Adams spends her day helping students open their minds and learn, as Adams described it, “the intricacies of argument.”
“I think our world has a sorry lack of individuals knowing how to express themselves appropriately and from an informed perspective,” Adams said, explaining the more students can learn about expressing their beliefs and opinions the better.
She said she strives to teach her students to learn there is more than one way to look at any issue.
“Hopefully they will be the leaders down the road that can listen and come to an agreement, not the ones screaming at each other like we see on the news.”
As she prepares to leave her current position, Adams said she hopes her legacy is one that inspires future educators to invest in their students and spurs students to achieve more than what can be done in a single classroom.
“I would hope my legacy is passion for the students who go so far beyond the classroom with their speech, debate, mock trial work and competition, and that whoever comes in or whoever takes over my part of the program continues to have that kind of investment in students,” she said. “There’s a lot of opportunities and not every coach puts those out there for their students, and I’ve always tried to do that.”
As a debate director and coach, Adams said her job has always been to guide students, rather than feed them information for them to repeat later. Her program has always been about encouraging students to think for themselves, and to deliver their thoughts in an educated, well-organized fashion.
“It’s experiential learning,” she said.” You lay a foundation of the formats and the structures, but right away they have to start figuring things out for themselves. I’m a firm believer in that I’m here to coach you, I’m not here to feed you what you’re going to talk about or how you’re going to do it. I’ll get you all the resources and materials you need, I’ll be there to guide you, but ultimately this is your product.”
To students remaining in her program, and to those coming in the future, Adams says to “Steady on, have fun, love what you do.”
To everyone else, Adams expressed her love for the district and her students.
“It’s been a great ride,” she said. “We have the best students in our district. I’ve loved taking on the challenge. Watching those kids grow has been a remarkable thing.”
Adams said her work for the Reagan Education Foundation will allow her to stay in Independence for foreseeable future, and she “won’t be a stranger.”