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Oxford High Teacher Wins Outstanding Theatre, Speech, Debate Educator Honors

The Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) has named Oxford High School English and Debate Teacher Dr. Barbara Lowe as the 2013-2014 MHSAA Outstanding Speech, Debate and Theatre Educator of the Year.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was an Oxford High production earlier this year.

Dr. Lowe has been teaching English and Debate classes at Oxford High School since 2004 with an additional 22 years as an educator in other school districts and educational programs.

“Her enthusiasm for her students to learn and the ability to be a part of their transformation into confident and seasoned debaters and public speakers is why she is an outstanding educator,” said Oxford School Superintendent Brian Harvey. “The Oxford School District is proud of her for this outstanding educational award. She should be commended for the hard work and energy she’s put into moving the high school’s Speech and Debate program to where it is today.”

Dr. Lowe says she accepted the Oxford High School position primarily to start the school’s speech and debate program and to work to build a strong presence for speech and debate opportunities for Oxford students.

“I debated in high school, but this was my first coaching position,” said Dr. Lowe. “When Mr. Bob King and Mr. Bill Hovious interviewed me, they asked whether or not I would be willing to teach two debate classes in addition to teaching English I.  I jumped at the opportunity.”

She adds that her favorite part about teaching speech and debate is teaching students to think outside of their comfort zones.

Dr. Lowe

“Most of them are freshmen when they take Debate I. They can’t wait to argue what they believe,” said Dr. Lowe. “What they usually don’t realize coming into the class is that being a good debater means being able to think about and articulate the other point of view as well as your own.”

Dr. Lowe currently teaches English I/Compensatory Reading and Debate I, II, and III courses at Oxford High School. She credits her love and involvement for debate and theatre from her own experience as a student on the McComb High School Speech and Debate Team while spending the rest of her free time on stage in theatre.

“Our debate team was brand new in the 70’s at McComb High,” said Dr. Lowe, “and like my students here at Oxford High, I learned both in the classroom and as I competed. In fact, I won Best Female Speaker at the Stennis Tournament at Mississippi State. My students compete in the same tournament each September, but there is no best Female Speaker award anymore, which shows how times have changed.”

Another significant change Dr. Lowe has seen in the area of high school speech and debate tournaments over the years is a stronger representation from the northern part of the state. According to Dr. Lowe, speech and debate competition has been strong in central and south Mississippi dating back to the 1970’s.

“When I started the program at Oxford High School, Alicia Robinson in New Albany was the only other coach in north Mississippi,” added Dr. Lowe. “Since then, other schools have started programs, such as Bruce, Tupelo, South Panola, Holly Springs and multiple DeSoto County Schools, at least doubling the student competition within the state.”

She adds her words of inspiration come from Voltaire: “I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

While Dr. Lowe is honored by the professional recognition, she says that she’s immensely enjoyed being the Oxford High School Speech and Debate coach.

“I have worked with so many smart, dedicated, funny and brave students over the years,” added Dr. Lowe.

Dr. Barbara Lowe received a bachelor of arts in English from Tulane University, a master of arts in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston, and a doctoral degree in English from The University of Mississippi.

For more information on the Oxford High School’s Debate and Speech and Debate Team, visit www.oxfordsd.org/OHSDebate.


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