Belfield High School's Speech Team Coach Helps Students Build Confidence and Camaraderie

Belfield High and Middle School's competitive speech team has grown from two to nine members under the guidance of their English teacher Stacie Stecker.

Belfield English teacher Stacie Stecker, left, junior Sailor Nelson, junior Ellie Redig, junior Emily Ruffin, eighth grader Kitty Nelson, freshman Elise Fugere, senior Tacy Palahniuk and sophomore Christine Palahniuk. Not pictured: sophomore Morgan Vesey.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

BELFIELD, N.D. — In Belfield one dedicated English teacher is coaching a speech team that has grown from a small cooperative with Dickinson to a thriving team. Along the way she has taught her students the power of confidence and perseverance.

Stacie Stecker coaches the school’s competitive speech team, a role she assumed two years ago. The humble beginning saw the team struggle with just two members as a cooperative with Dickinson High School. Today, Belfield has their own growing independent team with nine members and list of successes in competition and in life.

“Even those nine, each of them in this room typically do the max number of events every time. They can participate in three events each meet," Stecker said. "They're becoming confident and just continually improving. Every meet has been really fun to watch and be a part of… Some weeks, it takes a little more time on my part because at the beginning of the week they decide, I want to try something new this week. And I just say, okay well, we'll give it a shot. And we kind of just jump into something new and try it, which is fun.”

Freshman Elise Fugere calls Stecker her “speech mom” and said she’s developed a strong sense of camaraderie with all of her teammates. She’s not thrilled about the looming gap between speech and softball.

“I'm gonna miss it though, because without speech I would be sad. It's like sitting in my room all Saturday. That's what's gonna happen until it gets warm,” Fugere said. “It helps me gain confidence in what I'm doing in front of people. Just being able to go out there and get the nerves out of my head. After four years of doing it eventually, maybe one day I'll be able to do something with it.”


Stecker said that although speech club is a consistent sacrifice of Saturdays, it’s worth it. In addition to speech, she also coaches drama and student congress.

“As coaches, we also have to judge during the day. So that’s probably the more exhausting piece for me,” she said, adding that it’s been beneficial to critically analyze the performances of other teams. “It’s helped me become a better coach because I’m able to see what other people are doing with their scripts, who’s placing and why their placing. And that’s helped me be able to pick out things for each of our events so that we can do better and just excel a little bit more each time we perform it. That's the goal.”

Speech Club captain, junior Ellie Redig, explained she’s gleaned wisdom from Miss Stecker that’s helped her grow into a confident young woman.

“She’s given me so much good advice, just like genuinely don’t care what other people think about you. You need to just be yourself because the people in high school who are mean to you are putting their insecurities on you and not looking at me as a person, but taking their insecurities out on us,” Redig said.

Some of the students have honed their acting skills by picking out scripts from various literature pieces that they’ll use for the dramatic interpretation: humorous and serious duos competitions. At a state qualifier competition earlier this month Redig and her serious duos partner Emily Ruffin took first place and will go to state in late April.

“So for our script, it happens to be two best friends living their lives together. We flashback to like favorite memories, and then we flash forward. The ending scene is kind of where we learn the best friend is dying,” Redig said.

Other speech categories include informative, extemporaneous, impromptu, poetry and radio broadcasting.

This is Stecker’s fourth year at Belfield so it will be a special one, as she’ll send off the first round of students she’s taught for all four years of their high school journeys. One of those seniors is Tacy Palahniuk. Some of the addresses she’s delivered have included informative speeches on forensic science, as well as NASA missions. She said it’s been a wonderful experience to study topics that pique her interests and share that information with other people.


“This year has also taught me… If there's an opportunity just take it. I've gotten thrown into an event like an hour before we made it to a speech meet because somebody didn't want to do it. So it's taught me to just roll with the punches, try something new and just go with it,” Tacy said, relaying how her coach pushed her to reach her full potential at one particular competition. “It was like give it your all today and then give it everything you've got tomorrow like no matter how hard it's gonna seem, just give it your all.”

Tacy’s sister Christine Palahniuk, a sophomore, is also on the team.

“I wasn't originally interested in speech. But then in speech class, we did these impromptu games and everyone saw my acting skills. And they're like, you would be really good at a duo speech,” Christine said. “After two or three weeks of them persuading me I decided to finally do one.”

Stecker said that morning she found some motivational music that proved popular with the girls.

“I gave us a theme song that morning. I had heard it the day before, but it was ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia. So the whole song was all about the fact that we're confident and unstoppable. No matter what you do you just walk in with that attitude, I've got this,” Stecker said.

The coach explained they do have a few boys who participate in speech club occasionally, but that speech club events overlap closely with FFA activities. The speech team will be competing this Saturday in South Heart. They’ll also have regionals on April 13, and state on April 29.

Belfield Public School
Belfield Public School.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge. His reporting focuses on Stark County government and surrounding rural communities.
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