Coaching Awards

The WHSFA offers a number of awards to recognize excellence by its educators. Also see the Theatre Hall of Fame for awards specific to the One-Act Play program.


Ethel-HeiseEthel Heise New Speech Coach

Ethel Heise was a longtime Speech coach from Neenah who also taught at Oshkosh Lourdes Academy where she was their first teacher to earn the esteemed Herb Kohl Teaching Fellowship in 1992, and in the same year, received the Wisconsin Communication Association’s Andrew T. Weaver Award for excellence in teaching speech communication. Heise said that she started teaching because she enjoyed her days as a student: “When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t want it to end. The next thing to do was go back and do I again.” She was always supportive of new coaches, which is why WHSFA named this award in her honor.

Speech coaches within their first five years of coaching are eligible for the award when they are doing exceptional work as exemplified by: (A). Number of students involved in forensic program as juxtaposed with the size of the school; and (B). Quality of student performances at the State Speech Festival as indicated by number of students receiving gold, silver and bronze. Candidate must submit the following through the online form linked below, by March 22. Recipient(s) will be announced at State Speech.

  1. Three Letters of Recommendation:
    1. Testimonial letter from a current student, alum, or a parent of a current/former student.
    2. Two letters from other coaches, administrators, supervisors, colleagues, and WHSFA District/Sectional Chair.
  2. Essay:  “Why I Coach”  in 12-point font, with 1” margins, double-spaced, and not exceeding two (2) pages.
Past Heise Award Recipients

2010: Nick Sirek, Eau Claire Memorial HS & DeLong MS
2011: Shauna Wessely, Milton HS
2012: Craig Pierce, DeSoto HS
2012: Amy Koszarek, Waterford HS
2013: Abbi Wills-Phillips, Lincoln HS, Wis. Rapids
2014: Vanessa Sieg, Bloomer HS
2017: Jennifer Kieran, Ellsworth HS

Lyn Luce Leadership Award

Lyn LuceLynda Luce was a longtime Speech coach who taught at Waupaca High School, as well as at Fox Valley Technical College, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Oshkosh. She had been president of the Wisconsin Forensic Coaches Association (WFCA) and National Catholic Forensics League. She was honored with the WFCA’s William Hintz Memorial Award for Coaching Excellence in 1993, the Wisconsin Communication Association’s Andrew T. Weaver Award for excellence in teaching speech communication, the Hillshire Krahn Teacher of the Year, and received the Herb Kohl Teaching Fellowship. She was an active staffperson for both the WHSFA State Speech and Theatre festivals.

The award is presented to an educator who:

  • Is a successful coach in a variety of activities/performance areas.
  • Shows leadership on multiple levels.
  • Has strong community involvement.
  • Is a willing mentor.

Nominators must submit a letter of recommendation through the online form linked below, by March 22. Recipient(s) will be announced at State Speech.

Past Luce Award Recipients

2013: Nancy Herbison, Tomahawk MS/HS
2014: Roxi Wakeen, Baldwin-Woodville MS/HS
2014: Sam Jonas, Lancaster HS
2015: Mark Kohl, Lodi HS
2016: Sue Luterbach, St. Joan Antida HS, Milwaukee
2017: Tina Fern-Denzer, Viking MS, Baldwin-Woodville

Outstanding Speech/Debate/Theatre Educator

NFHS LogoWHSFA is able to recognize an educator for significant and/or long-term contributions to interscholastic speech, theatre and/or debate activities; however, professional contributions within the past five years are of the utmost importance. The nominee should have been involved in more than one forensic activity (e.g., Speech and One-Act Theatre), or should have had a major impact on shaping one activity. Contributions should be of a statewide impact — or beyond — and not just at the school level. Each nomination should be accompanied by a photo of the nominee. Please limit support material to the space provided in the nomination form. This nomination form is due by April 27.  This award has a lengthier approval process, and will be announced in spring of the following school year (spring 2019).

Past NFHS Award Recipients

1990: Stephen Spear, Loyola University & WHSFA Debate Advisor
2009: Roxanne Wakeen, Baldwin-Woodville MS/HS
2014: Lynda Luce, Waupaca HS (posthumously)
2017: Nancy Herbison, Tomahawk

NFHS LogoHeart of the Arts Award

This award seeks to recognize any student, adult, or group associated with a school’s performing arts programs — who exemplify ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. The award may be given in recognition of a specific act or for an activity of longer duration. This award, similar to the Spirit of Sport Award, covers myriad performing arts disciplines sponsored by a state activities association, which in Wisconsin includes: Music, Speech, Debate, Theatre, and Film. It could be awarded to an individual (or group) that:

  • has demonstrated exemplary “heart,” sportsmanship and/or citizenship in participation as it should occur;
  • has exceeded normal expectations in assisting others within the school or community; or
  • has overcome adversity or a challenging circumstance.

In the instance of a student, that student must be in good academic standing within his or her respective high school. Among the qualifying criteria that will be used are the student’s grade-point average, the activities in which he or she is involved, and community involvement. Other candidates should possess similar positive character traits, such as a high level of integrity and ethics. The nomination must be for something that occurred between January 1 and December 31. Nominated individuals do not necessarily need to still be enrolled in high school at the time of the nomination.  This nomination form is due by January 10. After review by WHSFA, it will be advanced to the WIAA for final consideration, before WIAA submits one nominee to the NFHS. This award has a lengthier approval process, and will be announced in late spring.

2017-18 Nomination Form


Speech & Debate State Educator of the Year

NSDA LogoThe National Speech & Debate Association’s National Educator of the Year award annually honors an individual who has enhanced quality of education in the field of speech and debate. This award is distinct from their Coach of the Year award as it is focused on the impact created in classrooms. An honoree is recognized from each state who nominates at least one candidate for consideration; all state-level honorees are considered for the national award. This nomination form is due November 15.  

Past NSDA Wisconsin Educator Award Recipients

2017-18: Kristine Compton, Hortonville