A two-student team from Ecole Boreale has made an impression at their first debating competition.

The team – 17-year-old Grade 12 students Reegan Jungkind and Victoria Tweedie-Pitre – attended the French-language Sommet des débats in Edmonton on Feb. 8, and finished fifth out of 12 teams.

That impressive showing earned them the Rookie Team Award among the students in Grades 10-12.

Jungkind said the good showing was very surprising and very exciting.

“We weren’t really expecting to do all that well,” she said. “We trained a lot, but we weren’t expecting to almost make the semifinals, which with a fifth-place finish we almost made the semifinals. We just missed it by two points.”

Jungkind added it was also really surprising to win the Rookie Team Award.

it’s not just something that we have to fundraise for and ask for money and all that stuff just to go and not be successful at it. So it was like almost a relief that we were good.”

Two Grade 12 students from Ecole Boreale – Reegan Jungkind, left, and Victoria Tweedie-Pitre – won the Rookie Team Award at a debating competition earlier this month in Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Kim Ivanko

Tweedie-Pitre said the team wasn’t expecting to win anything.

“We weren’t expecting to place very well,” she said. “We just wanted to try our best and improve our skills, and do the best we could.”

Tweedie-Pitre said they really surprised themselves with their performance, noting the Rookie Team Award was from about eight new teams at the competition.

She also noted that the competition was a little tougher for her and Jungkind, because French is their second language.

“We were competing against people whose French is their first language,” she said. “So it was kind of nerve-wracking in a way on top of being nervous about the public speaking and the debating having to uphold our French language.”

The annual competition – which debates legal issues – is presented by the Association des juristes d’expression francaise de l’Alberta.

Along with Ecole Boreale, this year’s teams came from Edmonton, Calgary, Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The Ecole Boreale team was coached by Kim Ivanko, a teacher at the school and the director for the North with the Canadian Student Debate Federation.

Ivanko said the team’s showing in Edmonton was amazing.

“I’m super proud of them,” she said. “They did wonderfully.”

Ivanko explained that the teams had advance notice of two topics to be debated.

“They didn’t know if they would be either for or against, so they didn’t know if they would be proposition or opposition,” she said. “And then the other motions were what’s called impromptu. So 15 minutes before the debate starts, they’re given the motion and they’re given if they’re going to be for or against, and they only have 15 minutes to prepare.”

The motions debated included that youth between the ages of 14-17 should be tried as adults, that there should be a carbon tax, that all Supreme Court of Canada justices should be bilingual, and that Canada’s immigration system should be based on a lottery, not on a points system.

Ivanko recently started a debating club at Ecole Boreale for students in Grades 7-12.

“They learn how to have a point of view and support that,” she said. “They learn critical listening, because you have to listen to what your opponents are saying to be able to rebut or clash with that.”

Ivanko added the students also learn public speaking skills and gain an awareness of current issues in Canada and the world.

Jungkind said she enjoys debating because she is interested in politics and likes public speaking.

“It’s almost like a sport, but it’s not a sport,” she noted. “But it gets your heart beating so fast that I can hear it in my chest because I’m so nervous. It’s just exhilarating.”

Tweedie-Pitre said debating gives a person confidence and helps build public speaking skills.

“It’s really exhilarating when you stand up there and express your opinions,” she said. “It’s like a polite argument in a way. It can get aggressive, but you’re still being very polite.”

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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