Chatfield speech team off to notable start

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS Chatfield High School's speech team is already earning awards. In front, from left, are Elsie Blankenship, Mary Burshem, Elizabeth Schieffelbein, Becca Copeman, Bea Martin, Lelani Clifford, Katelyn Dornack and Aletta Strande. In the middle row are Eddie Thorn, Maria Lawson, Sydney Ellis, Peyton Ellis, Skyla Brewer and Nick Long. Standing are JLee Blankenship, Michael Hrstka, Noah Lacey, Emilie Copeman, Layne Clemens, Nick Fryer, Logan Johnson, Elijah Lawson and Seth Boettcher. Not shown are Lillian Hanson, Henry Worden and Tyler Glenzinski.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

“Speech can do positive things for these kids in a lot of different ways, from building their confidence to finding a place where they feel they belong.  Our team is, as I believe most teams are, a family.  Speech and theater attracts all kinds, and all are met with open arms and open minds,” stated Chatfield High School speech coach Rachel Schieffelbein.

She has already seen the benefits of participation in speech as the 2019-2020 speech season is off to a notable start for her young speakers. They placed well at a recent meet at John Marshall High School in Rochester and have several more challenges ahead of them.   

“We get all kinds in speech.  Loud, goofy extroverts, and shy, quiet introverts, and the ones in between…kids who are also in band, dance, basketball, etc.,” she said.  “But on the speech bus, they’re all just speech kids.  They’re a team.  They support each other, laugh together, commiserate together and make plans to get better together.”

Schieffelbein truly and thoroughly enjoys her role as a speech co-coach with Stephanie Copeman. 

“Coaching speech is something I know I could never give up, and it’s 100 percent because of the kids.  They amuse me, frustrate me at times, and inspire me.  They work hard, they create crazy characters, they dive deep into themselves and pull out big emotions,” she said.  “You have to be willing to be vulnerable to really do this well.  Whether that’s pushing yourself through embarrassing silliness in the humorous categories, expressing your opinions in the forensic categories, or getting emotional in the dramatic categories.  You have to show who you are, and that can be scary at any age, much less in junior high and high school.”

Learning to speak out — and well — takes practice, something the students do every day after school. They started practicing right after winter break in January, although many of the kids had picked out their pieces and started working on their own before that. 

“We definitely have a lot of kids who have big goals for the season.  In only two meets, they’ve already brought home quite a few prizes, and we’re expecting more in the future,” Schieffelbein said.

The team has 26 kids this year in grades seven through 12, including five first-year speakers.  There are kids in poetry, prose, drama, humorous, duo, informative, discussion, creative expression, extemporaneous reading and storytelling. 

Most recently, the students have competed at John Marshall High School and Kasson-Mantorville. At the John Marshall speech meet, Maria Lawson got fourth in varsity extemporaneous reading, Elijah Lawson took sixth in varsity humorous, Tyler Glenzinski finished second in humorous novice and Henry Worden earned first in humorous novice.  In serious poetry varsity, Emilie Copeman finished sixth and JLee Blankenship received honorable mention.  Elsie Blankenship got second in serious poetry novice, and in serious prose varsity, Elijah Lawson got honorable mention.  Lelani Clifford took first in storytelling novice.       

Schieffelbein commented that her speech teams have changed size over the years that she and Copeman have been coaching, but that one thing remains the same – there are talented young speakers who find their niche in speaking publicly in competition. 

“Speech has a long tradition in Chatfield.  The Chatfield team has taken kids to state pretty consistently for over 25 years,” she said. “I still have former students, and former teammates, reach out to me to express how much speech meant to them, and how much it helped prepare them for their lives now.  The program has gotten bigger and smaller and bigger again since I started coaching 20 years ago, but the last few years have shown consistent growth.  It’s exciting.  We have a lot of really talented kids.”