Former English teacher Nora McRae would be proud of our students’ eloquence and poise. Our competitors won Top Team in both the Junior and Senior categories at her namesake Nora McRae Public Speaking Tournament, which took place on Saturday, May 1.
Founded in 1998, the public speaking tournament is one of the longest running in Ontario. Held each spring, it moved online this year after a two-year hiatus.
“Ever since I started coaching debate and public speaking in 2004, this tournament has been a highlight on the competition calendar,” says coach Grace Nolan, who worked alongside fellow faculty members Owen Williams and Tracy Dalglish to prepare the students. “The format may have been different, but the dedication of the students and the high quality of their performances stayed the same.”
Joining Branksome were The York School, Balmoral Hall, Maclachlan College, Country Day School, Lakefield College School and St. Thomas Aquinas. Full results can be found below. Congratulations to top Junior Team members Fatima, Amyna and Grace, and to the top Senior Team, comprised of Maylee, Mare and Jae.
“My favorite part of the competition was the opportunity to participate in so many categories, which was a great opportunity to develop my public speaking skills in a more well-rounded manner,” says Mare. “I definitely saw how students enjoyed the various opportunities to express themselves through different means of public speaking, whether that be a dramatic interpretation or the revived performance of a great speech in history.”
Indeed, students dipped into a diverse range of primary sources. Junior Declamation winner Fatima read from anarchist activist Emma Goldman's speech, “An Anarchist Looks at Life,” and Senior Declamation winner Mare read from former British prime minister Harold Macmillan's famous “Wind of Change” speech about apartheid in South Africa, to name just a few.
It was first-time lucky for Grade 10 student Fatima.
"This was my first public speaking tournament, so I was super nervous going into it,” she says. “The highlight was definitely seeing all my peers succeed and the hard work we all did pay off.”
Also, if the virtual format was a shift, by this time students are used to it and it was still fun, says Grade 10 student Amyna.
"While we were in a completely different setting for public speaking tournaments this year, they were still just as fun as in person,” she says. “Success in persuasive speaking depends on passion, personal experiences and connecting to something you truly believe in. We all have a unique voice or story to tell and I would like to think or believe that we live in a world where what each of us has to say matters.”
Passion is clearly an asset, says Grade 11 student Jae. “I think I placed well in my After-Dinner speech because it was a topic I was both passionate about and knew about, which meant that my speech was truly written from the heart.”
No one was prouder than Deputy Principal Karrie Weinstock, who praised the tremendous work of the coaching team. “Our students were remarkable and I thank you for giving them the opportunity to shine,” she told the coaches. “It was a thrill to have Branksome declared the winners in both Senior and Junior categories! After a two-year hiatus, the tournament successfully transitioned to include even more schools. Nora would be absolutely delighted!”
Interpretive Reading Junior – Elizabeth (5th); Amyna (3rd)
Interpretive Reading Senior – Jae (3rd); Maylee (1st)
Declamation Junior – Fatima (1st)
Declamation Senior – Mare (1st)
Persuasive Junior – Fatima and Karesa (5th); Amyna (1st)
Persuasive Senior – Mare (2nd)
After Dinner Junior – Hao Ming (2nd)
After Dinner Senior – Jae (1st)
Impromptu Junior – Amyna (5th)
Impromptu Senior – Maylee (2nd)
Overall Junior – Amyna (3rd)
Overall Senior – Mare (3rd); Maylee (1st)
Overall Team Junior – Branksome Hall (Fatima, Amyna and Grace)
Overall Team Senior – Branksome Hall (Maylee, Mare, Jae)