At the South Carolina District Qualifier tournament held this year at Myers Park High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, Chuck Nicholas received the District Communicator of the Year Award. This award, according to the National Speech and Debate Association, showcases individuals who utilize their speech and debate talents in ways that profoundly impact the lives of others. Individuals must have made a profound impact on the district and/or community.
Mr. Nicholas was nominated by Coach Greg Cook of Riverside High School in the following words:
“An outstanding communicator—like an outstanding coach—is at heart a great teacher. Chuck Nicholas is one of the finest teachers I have ever known and is my nominee for Communicator of the Year. Most of us know Chuck from his long-time service to both the South Carolina District and the National Speech and Debate Association. A five diamond coach, he has been awarded at least a half-dozen distinguished service plaques from the NSDA, has served as South Carolina’s district chairman, and has run debate tab at scores of tournaments across the Carolinas. He and Gail have coached national champions in Storytelling and Commentary, finalists in Congress, 8th place finishers in National Public Forum Debate, National Quarterfinalists in Word Schools Debate, and a host of other regional and national winners.
In addition to those achievements, Chuck has earned national success with mock trial, acts in Bob Jones University theatrical productions almost every year, and still finds time to teach his classes. It is upon that last element, teaching, that I wish to focus. His current and former students are certainly aware of “Mr. Nick’s” gifts as teacher. The rest of us usually have to make do with one of his famous ballots. Last summer, though, I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Nick in full teacher mode as we prepared for the national tournament in World Schools Debate. Chuck’s teaching method, Socratic in nature, consists mostly of asking questions of students. In this, he is both persistent and patient, never letting students get away with easy answers, never breaking down and telling them what to think, never showing frustration when students hit mental walls. Instead, he demonstrates real interest in the student’s thought process and a level of joy when, after 30 seconds or half-an-hour, the student finally has that “light bulb” moment. I have known many teachers who have demonstrated high intelligence, a formidable knowledge of the subject matter, or excellent presentation skills. Chuck has all those traits, but he also possesses the ability to teach students to be better, more ethical thinkers. That is surely among the rarest and most precious of gifts. And he is generous with that gift.
Not only did he coach the South Carolina World Schools team; he also generously worked with one of our Lincoln Douglas debaters after World School practices. He did so for the simple reason that she asked for his help, and Chuck seldom turns down an opportunity to teach. She benefited from his help. All the students did. But I think benefited most. Over the course of the World School practices, I received a master class in how to be a better teacher. The Communicator of the Year Award should be our highest honor, rewarding someone who has demonstrated extraordinary service and achievement in speech and debate, highlighting the efforts of someone who uses communication to change minds for the better. There is no one in South Carolina more worthy of that honor than Chuck Nicholas.”
(Photos by Pete Martin)