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Public speaking doesn’t always happen on a stage or at a podium.


Participating in class discussions. Speaking at assemblies. Appearing in videos. Participating in club meetings. Serving on student government. These are just some of the ways Potomac students practice this critical life skill.


“You’ll never guess what happened this weekend!” And just like that, there is a speaker, an audience, and a story to tell.

Public speaking doesn’t always happen on a stage or at a podium. Whether it’s sharing a humorous family story at recess, giving a presentation in class, or participating in It’s Academic on TV, Potomac students have ample opportunities to practice speaking clearly and with purpose.

Speech and Debate Continues Strong Performances

Ranked 79 in the nation, Potomac’s speech and debate team has had several strong performances this year. In late October, 18 debaters competed in the 40th Annual Florida Blue Key tournament at the University of Florida, placing fourth against larger Florida programs. While at UF, Taylor Burris '24 placed second in both extemp and impromptu speaking. Ethan Maher '25 placed third in congressional debate.  

Separately, 41 team members recently traveled to Philadelphia for the Villiger tournament at St. Joseph's University. It was our program's best Villiger performance in memory, placing fourth overall against some of the nation's best programs. Potomac students faced and won many rounds against the nation's first- and third-ranked programs at Villiger. 

The most notable wins came in the final round of congressional debate as Armaan Sethi '26 and Sebastian Gardner '25 finished first and second, respectively. Those performances were backed up by Adrian Atwater '24 and Maher, who also advanced to the finals. Burris and Hannah de Souza ’25 continue their leadership in speech events with a season-long series of high placements. 

Two additional debaters won the inaugural Brown University Public Forum tournament in early November. Congratulations to Sasha Leifer '26 and Tristan Mankovsky '27 on their championship.

Speech and Debate Earn Top 5 Finish

The Potomac Speech and Debate program finished in the top five of all schools at the NCFL Grand Nationals this past weekend in Louisville, KY. The top five schools are awarded the Daniel Masterton Award for Forensics Excellence. The award represents the equivalent of a national team championship.  

Potomac was led by Taylor Burris '24. Taylor finished third in Extemporaneous Speaking. A strong performance in Public Forum debate led to a quarterfinal finish for Olivia Eads '23 and Natalie Roots-Nowakowski '23. Meredith Vorndran '25 was a semi-finalist in Congressional Debate, Hannah de Souza '25 quartered in Declamation, and Abigail Woldgebriel '24 made it to the octo final in Extemp. 

Capstone project

The eighth grade Capstone Project empowered students to find a story to tell. In this project, students learned about various forms and structures of storytelling. They each produced a 4-7 minute documentary that captured a story of their own or of a family or community member. Through these stories, the students not only learned how to document a story via video but also the power of moving past a “single story” to uncover connections, awareness, and empathy.

LOWER school

In the Lower School, young learners begin experiencing what it’s like to get up in front of an audience, as well as what it means to be an attentive audience member. Sharing Assemblies give LS students opportunities to talk about what they are learning and perform simple songs and skits for their classmates and parents. Class projects and special events like the Third Grade Science Fair offer more chances for our youngest students to speak, listen, and learn.

upper school

By the time they reach the Upper School, Potomac students have long experience in sharing their ideas with audiences both large and small. Through class projects, assemblies, campus leadership positions, and participation in co-curricular activities, US students use their public speaking skills to get things done. Synthesizing information and ideas, thinking on their feet, expressing themselves in an authentic yet passionate way – these are skills that serve our students well and will continue to position them for success as they move confidently toward the future.

middle and intermediate schools

In the Middle and Intermediate Schools, students are challenged to organize their ideas and articulate their thoughts effectively, often giving presentations related to their classwork. Class plays, divisional and school-wide assemblies, and initiatives like our fifth grade Invention Convention and eighth grade Capstone Projects help MS and IS students hone their speaking skills and steadily gain confidence. In the eighth grade, students may elect to begin participating in Potomac’s nationally recognized Speech and Debate program, which includes participants through grade 12.


One facet of Potomac’s focus on public speaking is our nationally recognized Speech and Debate program, open to students in grades 8-12, with additional opportunities starting in Middle School. Our orators and debaters regularly win state and national championships, and several have been recognized as Academic All-Americans in Speech and Debate.

Speech and Debate


  • be active, engaged listeners
  • organize their thoughts and ideas
  • use details, examples, and evidence to support their points
  • speak clearly and articulately
  • be comfortable and confident in front of an audience
  • develop leadership skills