A speaking journey

SHS senior reflects back on her past four years as a member of the Speech and Debate team


Grace Elder

Senior Elizabeth Coyotl-Tello posando frente a su casa. Coyotl-Tello ha estado en el equipo de discursos desde el comienzo del primer año.

During her freshman year, senior Elizabeth Coyotl-Tello was dragged by her cousin to join the Speech and Debate team. Three years later, she is still on the team and enjoying it more than she thought she would.

Although Coyotl-Tello’s start on the team was riddled with confusion, she has come to love it through participating in her main event: poetry. 

“I didn’t know how any of it worked at first but I still joined, and it went pretty good,” Coytl-Tello said. “I love poetry. I love reading it and hearing poetry slams, which is why I chose it.”

Her coach, speech teacher Sarah Berghoff, has noticed her potential and passion for the topics she has chosen since the beginning. 

“She absolutely had the potential to be great,” Berghoff said. “She came in with her ideas and said ‘This is what I want to talk about and here are some poems to go along with it.’ She just has that energy.”

While her natural love for poetry helped her in making the decision to compete in the event, she says it goes deeper. One of the reasons why she loves poetry is because it can be about anything, and this aspect of it allowed her to express herself in ways she couldn’t before. 

“(The team) gave me a platform to talk about topics I really care about,” Coyotl-Tello said. “I am in the LGBTQ+ community so I would (choose poems) about that or something about immigration because I do have parents who are immigrants.”

She also said that growing up in the Hispanic community and being part of the LGBTQ+ community was hard for her since she grew up being taught with a traditional, conservative mindset. 

“When I came out it was hard and I was not comfortable,” Coyotl-Tello said. “It was hard being in my spot but now I embrace who I am. Being able to talk about these topics does help.”

Along with her enthusiasm for her crafts, Berghoff also recognizes Coyotl-Tello’s rhythm and timing for poetry. Berghoff says that she could coach everything else like gestures and postures, but she can’t coach rhythm.

Another thing that Berghoff noticed is what a great teammate Coyotl-Tello is. Even though the team does not have official leaders like many other clubs, she has stepped in to help as much as she can.

“She has stepped up and shown care and consideration for her teammates,” Berghoff said. “And helped to coach younger people to help them out along the way.” 

Senior Gloria Tello-Tepehua has also been on the team since her freshman year. Tello-Tepehua has seen first-hand how Coyotl-Tello helps her teammates and cares about them despite having no obligation to. 

“Elizabeth is a very supportive teammate and always cheers them on,” Tello-Tepehua said. “It’s very rewarding when you’re around her because you see her doing well, and that makes you want to push yourself.” 

Like any other competitive sport, Speech and Debate also requires long hours of practice. To get comfortable with her piece and to know it, Coyotl-Tello says she always practices it. On the morning of competitions, her method of practice is to talk to walls and pretend to have an audience in front of her.  

Despite the current situation of COVID-19, she does not plan to stop being on the team and still has goals she wants to accomplish.  

“My goal for this year is to get into nationals and have fun during my last season,” Coyotl-Tello said.