“I joined debate at beginning ninth grade, and it’s been my largest commitment outside academics,” said Reddy, who lives in Newnan. “I got into it during middle school when I was more quiet, and I learned the value of public speaking. Because of that I’ve become a lot more outgoing and outspoken. I learned more about politics and foreign policy, and I’ve developed good research skills. That’s useful in school and beyond.”

To cap off those successes, Berthiaume was inaugurated into the Georgia Forensic Coaches Hall of Fame for her long-term coaching and service to the field of debate. Inductees must have coached in the state for at least five years, promoted interest in debate and shown how speech and debate can be integral to education and communication. Berthiaume is a vocal proponent of debate’s educational benefits.

“Our students get two primary things,” she said. “They learn how to conduct in-depth research to significant levels of detail. They have a year-long topic to work on, so they can delve deeply into it. That’s an enormous benefit for any career area they go into. They also become very good at thinking quickly on their feet and using what they know to respond. Those critical thinking skills are so important in careers as well as in job interviews.”

Berthiaume also prefers to focus the spotlight on the 16 varsity and 13 intermediate debaters on her team.

“It’s a pretty big commitment to do debate,” she said. “At Woodward, it’s a class, but the students put in much more time beyond that doing research. We also meet twice a week for three hours after school, though this year, we’ve done more asynchronous work and haven’t had much after-school practice.”

Though online competition has some drawbacks, being able to compete virtually without having to travel to weekend tournaments was a bit easier, said Berthiaume. “I do hope we continue to have some virtual opportunities in the future.”

Information about Woodward Academy is online at woodward.edu.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at [email protected] or 770-744-3042.