Moffat County High School names new speech, debate coach |

Moffat County High School names new speech, debate coach

Karen Chaney brings years of legal experience to position

Andy Bockelman
Moffat County High School teacher Karen Chaney takes to the lectern in her classroom. Chaney recently became the new coach for the school's speech and debate team. Before becoming an educator, she was a lawyer for 17 years.
Andy Bockelman

Moffat County High School students will continue to speak up this weekend under the tutelage of someone who’s used the power of communication in a very important way.

MCHS recently appointed social studies teacher Karen Chaney as the new adviser for the speech and debate team. Chaney, who replaces Amanda Gaffney in the position, accepted the job earlier this month.

Athletics and Activities Director Mike Mitchell said he reached out to Chaney about heading the team because of her experience in a field other than education: the law.

Before becoming a teacher, Chaney practiced as a criminal appeals attorney for 17 years around Colorado’s Front Range.

“Her expertise in research and presentation is off the charts,” Mitchell said. “We’re expecting great things.”

Though she is new to the activity of forensics, Chaney said many of the traits necessary to do well in speech and debate events are those that she used in her previous career, especially in the activity of cross-examination.

“I’m a very analytical thinker, and those kinds of skills are important with things like policy debate,” she said. “The ability to analyze arguments and being comfortable speaking in public are skills everybody needs.”

She’s still getting a handle on assessing students’ talents for each of the events, but she likes what she sees so far.

“They’re very motivated, and the ones that I’ve already had in class are very bright,” Chaney said. “They think deeply about issues, and they have the intellectual ability to explore it and get into it and think about it from different ways and different perspectives.”

Just as crucial a component is the aspect of putting in all the required work in advance, she added.

“They learn that in order to be successful, they can’t just show up at the meet, they need to prepare,” she said.

As Chaney gets more involved with the team, she can’t help but notice the way members of speech and debate absorb information, and like any good group, the more experienced pass along their knowledge to their younger colleagues. She mentioned veterans such as Chris Kling, Tiffany Lingo, Treann Quick and Jake Stewart as those who are helping lead this year.

Additionally, MCHS graduate Ben East, who attended the National Forensics League national tournament on behalf of Moffat County, has also assisted in practices.

As the season continues for speech and debate, the team will be in Fort Collins this weekend with more tournaments in the weeks to come before the bigger levels. Chaney said she believes a number of her students could compete at state or even beyond, though one of her long-term goals is to keep up the interest for underclassmen to return year after year.

“There’s been a good tradition at Moffat County, and we want to be able to recruit more kids and keep it going,” she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or

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