Cross-curriculum lecture engages MHS students

McCollum High School Speech Teacher Jeannae Bierstedt joined forces with Social Studies Department Chair Axel Tapia to plan and execute a cross-curriculum lecture centered on presidential debates.  

Tapia introduced the concept to his students and in turn, the debate team put on a mock presidential debate.  

“We thought it was really important to show the students how the whole process works,” Bierstedt said.  “A lot of them are going to be first time voters, so we thought it was a unique year that we could really pull this off and present it in a way that would have a lot of impact on them.”

The goal was to help students understand the power of presidential debates, while the debate team honed their public speaking skills.

The three-day lecture kicked-off with a democratic debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, followed by the Republican Party debate featuring Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

On the final day, the top candidates from each party went head to head with Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson.

“It was important for us to include Gary Johnson on the final day because we want the kids to know that there are not just republican and democratic candidates, that the people can be influential enough with their votes and that the independent party can one day be on the ticket,” Bierstedt added.

Debate students spent the last two weeks preparing and researching all of the policies, they came up with the questions and the answers according to the way their candidate would answer.

For debate team member and Clinton impersonator Serena Gutierrez, the lesson was a win-win. She is now an expert on the democratic presidential nominee and got to practice what she wants to do for a living. After graduation, she plans to major in professional communications.

“It was nonstop research and a lot of work, but so worth it,” Gutierrez said. “I got to address the crowd, reach out to people and I got more comfortable performing in front of an audience.”

Meanwhile, government students took notes, cheered, booed and casted their vote at the end of each debate.    

“Everything was student centered, they took it and drove this lesson in a way that I didn’t think was going to happen,” Bierstedt said. “It was awesome to see them get so involved in politics because most high school kids don’t, a lot of them started forming their own genuine opinions about the candidacy.”


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