Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award

It is always AWESOME to share exciting news about what is happening at Interstate 35 Schools – the latest is notification that high school English teacher Brianna Schwenk has received the Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award from the Iowa High School Speech Association (IHSSA)!  As you can see from the press release copied and pasted below, IHSSA has had a profound impact on Brianna – and now Brianna is “paying it forward” by giving back to IHSSA – but more importantly to all the students she works with here at I-35.

Sometimes there seems to be a media focus on the negative – it is refreshing to see a young teacher doing some incredible things for her students get recognized for her efforts.  We are very proud of Brianna and grateful she has chosen to share her passion and talents at Interstate 35.

Go Road Runners!!!




October 10, 2014 For immediate release
The Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award was presented on October 4, 2014 at the Iowa High School Speech Association Coaches Convention. This year’s recipient was Brianna Schwenk, IHSSA Speech Coach at Interstate 35 High School .

The Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award has been established by Richard Riggleman of Deloit, Iowa to reward a second year IHSSA speech coach. This award shall consist of $1,000 per year, renewable for two consecutive years, for a total of $3,000. The Riggleman Award is the first of its kind that has been established with the IHSSA. The profile of the recipient will reflect: a commitment to coaching speech, large group events, individual events, and/or debate; demonstrate excellence in coaching speech; and have past experience in high school or college speech activities. Mr. Riggleman was an active IHSSA coach for over 30 years and still remains very active with the IHSSA. Richard Riggleman was inducted into the IHSSA Hall of Fame in 1994.

This year’s recipient, Brianna Schwenk, is in her second year of teaching at Interstate 35 High School in Truro. She was involved in IHSSA activities as a student and continued her work in IHSSA activities with high school students during her college years. In her first year of teaching and coaching at Interstate 35 High School her students were involved in IHSSA Large Group and Individual Events tournament. That very first year she had several groups and students make the state contest as well as one group receiving All-State nomination.

As Brianna stated in her application, “Early on, IHSSA helped me to find and practice the skills that make me…me. Later, IHSSA assisted me in finding my true calling, and now IHSSA has brought me to a place of joy and fulfillment. Because of the IHSSA, I found my voice, my talent, and my true calling. Thank you, IHSSA for acting as an agent of positive change throughout my life’s journey.”

Her Principal Steven Kaster at Interstate 35 High School said of Brianna, “Ms. Schwenk is one of the best up and coming teachers, coaches, and people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I have been told by my mentors that a person can tell when a teacher has ‘it’ . ‘It’ being the ability to do amazing things with students inside and outside the classroom and I am most certain that Ms. Schwenk has been blessed with ‘It’.”
It is with pleasure that the IHSSA congratulates Brianna Schwenk as the 20th recipient of the Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award.

For more information please call the IHSSA at 515-288-9741, ask for Craig Ihnen.


Rural School Advocates of Iowa (RSAI)

Greetings everyone!  The post today will be pretty short – seems like the paperwork is mounting as we speak! 🙂  A few months ago Interstate 35 CSD joined an organization named Rural School Advocates of Iowa (RSAI).  This organization is in its first year of existence and was developed through a grassroots movement across the state by Boards of Education and administrators who believe in rural schools – such as Interstate 35.  The purpose of the organization is to advocate for rural schools and the unique nature of these schools.  For more information, please click here and read more about RSAI from their website.  I have been honored to work with this organization since its inception last year.

As an outgrowth of the work of RSAI, this months “School Administrator” (publication of the American Association of School Administrators, e.g., the superintendent group :-)), has several wonderful articles regarding rural schools.  I would especially recommend reading the article entitled, “Small World – Major Tasks” – to read the article, click here.

In the coming months I’ll share more about the work of Rural School Advocates of Iowa – as well as talk more about the inherent goodness of rural schools and some of the inherent challenges we face.


As the new superintendent I’ve spent quite a bit of time “getting the lay of the land” by visiting with people as well as reviewing reports/data and all that fun stuff!  One learns so much by observing and listening.  It seems appropriate early in my tenure to share a few philosophical thoughts and dare I say expectations; I’d like to talk about sportsmanship as we move into more and more ballgames, concerts, plays, contests, etc.  So there is no misunderstanding or confusion, I believe positive sportsmanship to be a cornerstone of success in activities and actually in the entire school culture.  Activities are part of the learning that takes place for students and should be an extension of what we do during the day in our schools. I also know that some of what I will share may irritate some people.  I’m perfectly fine with that but want no misunderstanding of what I believe or expect.

Be you a student, parent, coach, staff member, or community supporter, I believe sportsmanship is positively supporting our team, including players, coaches, cheerleaders, etc.   How might this concept of sportsmanship look in real-world situations?

  • Standing and cheering loudly for the Road Runners
  • Shouting positive encouragement to our team, coaches, and cheerleaders
  • Clapping politely and respectfully during introduction of the opposing team
  • Clapping politely and respectfully when the officials are introduced
  • Standing quietly and respectfully with your hand across your heart during the National Anthem
  • Following acceptable decorum for plays, concerts, etc.

There certainly is a plethora of other ways positive sportsmanship is visible.   The bottom line is that sportsmanship is taking pride in the fact we’re Interstate 35 Schools and positively support our students without putting down anyone else.  Sportsmanship is a sign of a first-class place.

It’s interesting to note that perhaps it’s easier to identify things that are examples of poor sportsmanship than those that are positive examples.  I’m guessing watching college crowds behave has greatly influenced this and actually crept down to the PK-12 world.  This is NOT a good change in my estimation.   From my experience, here are some examples of poor sportsmanship.

  • Yelling at or booing officials and/or calls they make during the contest
  • Yelling anything at the other team, e.g., members, coaches, cheerleaders, or fans
  • Chanting anything inappropriate during the contest … remember this is a PK-12 school setting and NOT a college
  • Not standing respectfully during the National Anthem and school song
  • Yelling at a coach or director for a decision he/she has made during the game
  • Putting a newspaper over your face when the other team is introduced
  • Leaving a concert after your child has finished performing

This list is not intended to be all-inclusive.

I also want to make sure everyone is aware that the Iowa High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) has rankings for football, basketball, wrestling, and baseball.  At each event, officials are asked to rank the coach, athletes, and spectators on various criteria of sportsmanship; I’m not sure if the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union (IHSGAU) does the same.  These statistics involve a 1-4 scale with 1 being the best and four being the worst.  My contention is why would we ever accept a score that is higher than the average?  Why wouldn’t we want to always receive a score of 1.0?  I don’t believe we should ever settle for average; in all things, including sportsmanship, we want to be the school that all other schools wish they were.

Within the internal workings of school we can certainly positively influence our coaches, directors, and students to demonstrate good sportsmanship.   Simply put, that is the expectation and what we will always be working toward.  You as district supporters also have a responsibility to represent yourself and the school in a positive manner.  You have the responsibility to model what we expect from our young people.  If you think students don’t notice your behavior, attitude, and actions then you’re missing what is really happening around you.

Finally, I would like to connect sportsmanship to an issue that rears its ugly head in every district in the country, bullying and harassment.  Basically bullying and harassment occur when someone is disrespectful to someone else and take actions to hurt the other person either emotionally or physically.  I have absolutely no tolerance for this type of nonsense.  We need to continue developing a sense of mutual respect for each other through our words and actions (being proactive) and also come down swiftly and firmly with anyone who bullies or harasses (reactive).  As I process this concept of sportsmanship something keeps resonating with me, namely isn’t being disrespectful or inappropriate at events really a masked form of bullying and harassment?  Is it respectful to yell at officials?  Is it respectful to boo or chant things about the other teams?  Is it respectful to vocally challenge the decision of a coach at the game?  Is it respectful to leave a concert early?  When someone does these types of things aren’t they actually trying to put themselves in a position of superiority, just like a bully or harasser?

Perhaps it’s a stretch for some to link sportsmanship to bullying/harassment, however it makes sense to me.  I want to be a good, positive role model on how you should treat people, including my behavior at events.  I want to be held to a higher standard than other school districts.  I want to be part of a school where pride is demonstrated through positive sportsmanship.  I want to be part of a school where people are treated with respect, regardless of the situation.  Simply put, I have no interest in being average, as an individual or as a school.  We need to lead the way for others to follow.

As a young teacher and coach, I had the privilege to be part of a state champion boys’ basketball team, the only state championship ever won by the school in basketball.  As proud as we (school and community) were of the state championship, we were at least equally if not more proud of the fact we also won the Sportsmanship Award at the state tournament.   That is the way it’s supposed to be.

I would encourage everyone to think about how they individually represent themselves and Interstate 35 as spectators at events.  I would also encourage everyone to take the challenge of demonstrating positive sportsmanship at all times and setting a positive example for everyone around them, and most importantly for those students watching what we do.