Tilghman's Martha Emmons Steps Down From Speech and Debate Team
During her eleven years of leadership, Emmons turned a fledgling team into a state powerhouse, producing nationally ranked competitors, individual state and regional champions, two dozen members ranked on the prestigious Kentucky All-State Team, three National Speech and Debate Academic All-Americans, one National Youth Storyteller Torchbearer, and ten members listed on the national list of outstanding service speakers.
Emmons’ team members have earned millions of dollars in college scholarships, and her students - now scattered around the world - have gone on to earn Fulbright Scholarships, land roles in college theatre productions, taken leadership roles on their respective college campuses, been named to collegiate All-State and Multi-State Speech and Mock Trial teams, and enjoyed myriad successes that many attribute to their speech training.
Emmons is a firm believer in speech education, citing the ability to communicate as the essential skill necessary for success.
“In a recent poll of employers by USA Today, statistics show that the number one needed skill lacking among employees is the ability to communicate effectively, and that speaks to the need for speech education. What I love, too, is seeing the way becoming involved on a speech team transforms lives. There are so many smart young people who aren’t challenged to think on their own in the classroom, or maybe they don’t take the challenge. But, they get in involved in speech competition and their horizons, as well as their opportunities, expand in every direction.”
Throughout her tenure, Emmons has encouraged her students to use their speech skills for the benefit of their community. The Tilghman Speech and Debate Team has planned and hosted two candidates’ forums, and members regularly lead the Pledge of Allegiance at Paducah’s weekly City Commission meetings. In collaboration with the Kentucky Storytelling Association, Emmons’ team brought Kentucky Storytelling Week to Paducah in 2014, and members continue their community outreach by promoting the love of speech through storytelling and improvisational speaking.
Both the Tilghman Improv Troupe and the Tilghman Tellers Storytelling Troupe began last year as offshoots of the competitive team. Volunteers in these groups interact with school children and the community through their speech-related efforts. Members took part in Paducah’s Dickens of a Christmas event in late 2014, and most recently, the Improv Troupe connected with young students in the Paducah Paducah School System during post-standardized testing celebrations.
“As our speech coach, Coach Emmons has built upon the tradition of excellence of Paducah Public Schools,” remarked Superintendent Donald Shively. “Each and every student that has come into contact with her has been developed into not only a more effective communicator but a better person, too. Our students and our school system will truly miss her presence and the impact she has had on our children."
To commemorate her leadership and legacy, students, parents, and friends of the Paducah Tilghman Speech and Debate Team have endowed an award to be given annually in her honor at Tilghman’s Honors Night. Each year, an outstanding senior speech team member who best represents the ideals instilled by Emmons will receive the “Martha Emmons Spirit of the Team Award.”
This year’s inaugural recipient, Brante Green, said of Emmons and the Speech Team, “No endeavor has prepared me more for success or given me more confidence than my four years as a speech team member. Mrs. Emmons is not only my coach and mentor, but also one of my closest friends. There are many things I will miss about Tilghman, but not even one is rivaled my Mrs. Emmons.”