Members of the Chatfield speech team include, in front, from left, Alli Hanson, Danielle Norton, Isaiah Redalen and Larissa Martin. In the second row are Matt Dietz, Frankie Littrell, Elizabeth Walsh, Celene Arellano and Pat Walsh. In the third row are Brian Pagnano, Chris Solie, Brianna Martinka, Jeana Chapman and Lauren Mueller.  GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Members of the Chatfield speech team include, in front, from left, Alli Hanson, Danielle Norton, Isaiah Redalen and Larissa Martin. In the second row are Matt Dietz, Frankie Littrell, Elizabeth Walsh, Celene Arellano and Pat Walsh. In the third row are Brian Pagnano, Chris Solie, Brianna Martinka, Jeana Chapman and Lauren Mueller. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
These kids are seriously prosaic, extemporaneous and informative.

Several Chatfield students are participating in various categories of speech - preparing for contests and tournaments held around the region each spring. Advisor Rachel Schieffelbein explained the students are exploring techniques of delivery in serious prose, drama, poetry, humorous, discussion, storytelling, extempraneous reading, great speeches and informative speeches.

"We're seeing the kids spread out more into different categories, which is great," Schieffelbein said. "Duo is fun, and always popular because you get to have someone there with you, but we're seeing kids take on harder categories."

Schieffelbein noted the kids are dedicated as they get up early on Saturday mornings to compete in speaking competitions and tournaments and who just returned from a tournament, having done quite well.

This year's speech team includes three seniors, Danielle Norton, Brian Pagnano and Matt Dietz; one junior, Brianna Martinka; four sophomores, Alli Hanson, Francesca Littrell, Pat Walsh and Elizabeth Walsh; four eighth graders, Jeana Chapman, Isaiah Redalen, Chris Solie and Lauren Mueller; and one seventh grader, Larissa Martin.

"Celene Arellano has also been our team helper this year," noted Schieffelbein. "We started practicing after Christmas break, after school."

The students have a very busy late-winter speaking schedule, with their first meet having been held at John Marshall High School in Rochester two Saturdays ago.

"It was a large meet for them to get thrown into for the first one, but they handled it well," the coach stated.

Brian Pagnano won in Discussion, Matt Dietz won in Storytelling and Chris Solie placed fifth. Larissa Martin placed second in Prose, Jeana Chapman placed third in Informative, Pat Walsh placed fifth in Great Speeches and Frankie Littrell placed fourth in Extemporaneous Reading.

"Danielle Norton was unable to attend conference, but she is another of our students who has been placing well all season," Schieffelbein stated. "We have a meet every Saturday from February through most of April. Something my coach used to say to me that I've passed on to them is they're 'getting up early on a Saturday morning to do for fun what most people are scared to do their whole lives'."

Schieffelbein has been assistant speech team coach for over a decade, helping longtime coach and Chatfield High School art instructor Kelly Puent, who stepped down from the position early this year.

"Unfortunately, Kelly was unable to coach this year due to an increasingly busy schedule, so I took over as head coach and Angie Weigmann took over as assistant coach," she explained. "This is my 14th year coaching speech, though. I love working with the kids, watching how they evolve as actors. There is so much talent in Chatfield, and it's amazing to see their hard work pay off and watch them really connect with a character."

Schieffelbein also added that she loves seeing her students succeed and gets a great feeling of pride when they do so.

"They put in so much hard work, and I love seeing their faces when it pays off," she continued. "I believe it gives them more confidence in many areas of their lives. It's not an easy thing to do, to stand up in front of people and be vulnerable, but they do it. And they do it well. Plus, of course, they have fun, they meet new people."

Attending tournaments allows the speakers to test their skills and make improvements where they find improvements are needed.

"They're very rewarding," Schieffelbein said about the speech contests. "Even if you aren't placing, you get feedback from judges every round, so you can see where you've improved and what your strengths are. The kids also get to interact with each other, see each other's strengths and grow from that as well."

Schieffelbein has heard very positive remarks from her speakers. "All the kids agreed that getting to meet new people is a big part of the fun. But seeing themselves, and their team members, improve and grow is also something they enjoy."

The coach shared some of the comments heard from her students. Jeana Chapman said, "There are awesome people in speech that make it entertaining, and it's also really fun to see yourself and the others improving over the season."

Frankie Littrell said, "For me, I like the challenge of it...being able to one-up yourself every weekend and seeing yourself improve."

Celene Arellano added, "Everyone's themselves, so you feel at home."

In spite of how much time the students invest in their speaking practices and tournaments, their very supportive parents don't get to hear them very often.

"We do host a parents' night every year and it's great when the parents can come see what their kids have been doing all season," Schieffelbein added. "A lot of the kids ban them from the meets because they make them nervous."

Schieffelbein feels there is great value in students' speech team participation.

"This is a program that will help these kids for years to come," she concluded. "Most people end up having to get up in front of people and speak at some point in their lives, even if it's just a toast at a wedding. The kids who participate in speech learn skills they'll use forever. Plus, I believe it improves their self-confidence. If they can do this, they can do anything."