Ennis speech coach earns statewide recognition

Ennis teacher Marilyn Jenkins has been named the Montana Class C Speech Coach of the year.

Jenkins has coached speech for going on five years and is honored by the award, but says it really shows the dedication by Ennis’ student competitors and her other coaches.

“We put in a lot of time, but in the end it’s their value and their worth that’s going to win the award,” Jenkins said. “That little plaque, in a sense, belongs to them.”

Under Jenkins’ leadership, Ennis has won second in the state in speech the last two years. This year the policy debate team won the state championship under the tutelage of volunteer coach David Kelley. Jamie Lovett coaches the drama portion of the program.

“I work with a great group of people,” Jenkins said.

The unique thing about the speech, debate and drama team is that it competes for a longer period of time than most other extracurricular activities, she said. Students practice and compete from October through January. That means kids can be involved in speech, debate and drama and still compete in athletics.

“The reason it is that long is so we can get those kids who are in athletics to be involved in that program as well,” Jenkins said. “The kids have to make four meets and then they can participate in divisionals.”

The program really prepares students for life by instilling confidence in speaking before crowds and in commanding their words.

“When you prepare like that week after week for tournaments you become easy with language,” she said. “It gives them a leg up and it gives them an edge and it shows. That power to control yourself with language in front of others and to make your point precisely – make your point with words.”

Jenkins has been teaching and coaching in Montana for more than 30 years. She starting teaching in the Belt, Geyser and Stanford area in central Montana.

When her family moved to Ennis and she started teaching she also coached junior varsity boys basketball. But students wanted speech and debate and eventually the school board approved the program, she said.

This is the first time she’s won the coach of the year award.

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