Haider considered great debate coach

Haider considered great debate coach

Carolyn Saephan

GREAT DEBATE COACH Laima Haider (right) helps debaters Kim Mejia, Gloria "Jack" Mejia and Diego Garcia practice for an upcoming tournament. Haider joined Catherine Kuhn as a co-debate coach this fall.

With no actual policy debate experience herself, first-year history teacher Laima Haider stepped up to take on the job of coaching Fremont Federation of High School’s debate team after the former leader lost his teaching job due to budget cuts.

In just five months, Haider has learned how to coach the team, and some debaters even call her the best they’ve had in the three years of the program.

“It makes me happy,” said Haider. “I didn’t know what I did to deserve (being called the “best,”), but I’m glad they’re happy with me.”

Haider’s only other coaching experience was very different – she coached tennis and lacrosse at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek.

Catherine Kuhn, a former teacher at Paul Robeson and now a Skyline High teacher, has worked with Haider as a co-coach and will continue until Haider is ready to take over the team herself.  While Kuhn still works with the team, Haider has taken on the lead role.

Kuhn explained that the team has improved since Haider has been the coach.

The team now has more novices attending practice. They are also winning more rounds at tournaments and took first and then second place at the most recent tournaments.

Haider, on the other hand, praises Kuhn, a former high school debater, for what she has brought the team.

“She’s a wonderful resource and great leader,” said Haider.

Haider also says her job is made easier because her team members are great debaters.

“It’s easy to be a coach of a team that’s already amazing,” she said.

Debater Diego Garcia of Media Academy is happy to have Haider on board.

“She’s the best coach I ever seen,” he said. “She really cares about us.”

Haider makes sure she prepares for the debate team. She takes students to the tournaments on time and she also makes sure students are fed before tournaments.

The earliest Haider had to get up to attend a tournament was 4:30 a.m. because she had to arrive at school by 6:30 a.m. to catch a bus to San Francisco. The latest she got home from a tournament was at 10:30 p.m. due to dropping off students at home.

“From making copies to generously providing snacks, Ms. Haider has been a critical asset to our team. She has a great sense of humor and is always there to get the job done,” said Kuhn.

Second-year debater Cesar Sanchez appreciates Haider but believes that all debate coaches are great.

“Coaches have different styles in teaching, and I appreciate all of them equally,” said Sanchez.

Former debate coach Lisa Shafer is relieved that Haider agreed to take on the job.

“Being a debate coach requires a huge amount of energy and dedication,” said Shafer. “At a small school like Media Academy, teachers are already busy with other projects and responsibilities.”

Without Haider, Shafer said, there probably would not be a debate team at Fremont.

“Ms. Haider’s willingness to coach debate is a huge gift,” said Shafer.

Kuhn says it would be awful if she didn’t have the help of Haider.

“Ms. Haider is an amazing co-coach. She has been a great addition to the Fremont debate team and is a pleasure to work with,” said Kuhn.

With the goal for this year debate team to win tournaments and for the debaters to grow as individuals, Haider has also been trying to recruit new students to the team.

The debate practices are held every Monday after school in Media Academy portable B-1 for about two hours.