GIVE YOUR CHILD THE LIFELONG GIFT OF CONFIDENCE THROUGH SPEECH AND DEBATE!
Meet the Bay Area Debate 2017-2018 Teachers
We pride ourselves on the fact that all of our teachers have received advanced degrees and are currently successful professionals in the Bay Area.
Taisia Dubinina, our Speech Program Director graduated from the University of San Diego, Honor’s Program with a Magna Cum Laude and a dual degree. She is a Heinsohn's family member and fourth generation of educators who has been dedicating her life to education. She was a high achieving student in high school, and received a full scholarship that covered her 4 years at the University of San Diego entirely, where she received a B.A. degree in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and International Business. During her time at USD Taisia trained with the same professors that taught the Masters of Fine Arts Graduate Theatre Program, which has some notable alumni such as Jim Parsons of the Big Bang Theory. Thus, Taisia's theatre background and training has allowed her to bring Young Genius' speech students to very high competitive success at local and national tournaments. Taisia is a dedicated educator who worked with Minds Matter Organization of New York and San Francisco, where she were guiding students through the college admission process and used her expertise to create Young Genius' HSPT/ISEE tests preparation curriculum.
Dr. Matthew Brandstetter
Dr. Matthew Brandstetter began his speech and debate career in high school, continuing for four years in college while earning 3rd place national honors in extemporaneous speaking and 3rd place national honors in CEDA debate. Dr. Brandstetter founded and sustained the Harker School speech and debate program from 1998 until 2007; he directed the Fairmont debate program from 2011-14, and currently facilitates the Bishop O’Dowd debate programs in parliamentary and public forum debate. Additionally, Dr. Brandstetter directed the Azusa Pacific University debate program, improving its national ranking from 70th to 26th in just six short months. Dr. Brandstetter holds a B.A (University of California, Irvine) in Classics, an M.A. (University of San Francisco) in Organization & Leadership, and an Ed.D (Argosy University) in Educational Leadership. He has also earned a third diamond recognition from the National Speech and Debate Association.
Zahra is a UC Berkeley graduate of Political Science with three years of collegiate debate experience and four years of professional coaching experience. As a debater for Irvine Valley College and UC Berkeley, Zahra won the 2012 U.S. National Championship and the California Community College State Championship in Open Parliamentary Debate. She also won the U.S. Silver Medal in Lincoln-Douglas Debate and U.S. Bronze Medal in Impromptu Speaking. While attending UC Berkeley, Zahra ranked among the top 20 teams at the National Parliamentary Tournament of Excellence and the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s annual tournament.
Throughout her undergraduate degree, Zahra coached both forms of debate at Education Unlimited Inc.’s “Summer Focus” Camp in 2012, the Windward Preparatory School in 2012, the Olive Children’s Foundation in 2014, and Education Unlimited Inc.’s “Public Speaking Institute” in 2016. Furthermore, Zahra worked as a Mission Operations Analyst for Palantir Technologies in 2013, and as an Academic Assistant to UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Professor of Law and Business, Daniel Granholm Mulhern.
In 2016, Zahra received postgraduate offers from the London School of Economics, King’s College London, and University College London for an MSc in Security Studies and a MA in Nuclear Non-Proliferation. Instead of attending a Master’s program, she chose to prepare for law school while teaching what she loves: speech and debate.
Fatima is a UC Berkeley graduate of Conservation and Resource Studies with two years of competitive collegiate speech and debate experience and five years as an educator—three of which have been as a professional coach. As a competitor for Irvine Valley College, Fatima was the undefeated 2015 US National Open Parliamentary Debate Champion as well as the California State Community College Parliamentary Debate Champion. While competing in Beijing, China, among 300 students from 11 nations, Fatima won the Open British Parliamentary Debate Semifinalist Award at the China Open Debate Tournament. She has also won the US Gold Medals in both Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking and Gold Medals at the statewide California Community College Forensics Tournament in both Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking. Fatima taught at the Argumentation and Communication Leadership Academy in 2014 and from 2015-2017, Fatima coached and directed the Parliamentary Debate Team at Campolindo High School. She created the team’s first official curriculum, and under her tutelage, the team became the nation’s top ranked parliamentary debate program, shattering the national seasonal point record. During her last season with the team, her students occupied 3 of the top 5 nationally ranked individual debaters and many have gained acceptance to various Ivy League institutions. Fatima has also served as an Associate Researcher to UC Berkeley Associate Professor Dr. Claudia Carr in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, and presented previous research at various symposiums across the state. Fatima plans to pursue environmental law in the coming years and continue to teach in the interim.
Steven Zhou has been a competitor in speech and debate since middle school, a coach for high school speech and debate for the past year, and a rising corporate trainer for the past few years. In high school, he specialized in Lincoln-Douglas debate and Original Advocacy, cumulating in his participation at the CHSSA State Competition. He has served as a coach and leader, both as the President of speech and debate at one of the top high schools in the country and as the head coach for a team of high school Parliamentary debaters in Southern California. While completing his Bachelors in Psychology and Masters in Religious Studies at Pepperdine University, he was invited to present his research on leadership and cross-cultural communication at a variety of conferences and corporate training sessions, including most notably a presentation to the chief technical officer’s team at Alibaba International Headquarters. Steven is excited to return to the world of competitive speech and debate and train the next generation of students to become leaders both in competition and in their future careers!
Leah Ammon has a BA in both Art History and History from U.C. Berkeley and an MA in interdisciplinary studies (cultural history/critical theory) from N.Y.U. She has worked for over 10 years at premier museums and cultural organizations on both the East and West Coast, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Neue Galerie New York, and Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga. In her various roles, she has honed her public speaking, persuasive writing, graphic design, and art direction skills.
In high school, she competed in Impromptu, SPAR, Expository, Original Oratory, and Congressional Debate, and won first place or placed within the top three at numerous local and national tournaments--including the California state competition, where she took third in Oratory and second in Congress. She competed for two years on the Parliamentary Debate team at U.C. Berkeley, and advanced to the national parliamentary debate tournament both years. Throughout college, she also pursued her other passion: working with students. She was a drama teacher for YMCA summer camp, an ESL mentor, a YWCA Big Sister, and, for three summers, an instructor at Lindamood Bell.
Even after her academic career ended, Leah made sure to incorporate public speaking into her life. She was a volunteer docent at the Neue Galerie for five years, leading groups of various sizes through the museum’s exhibitions, and she has been an active member of Saratoga Toastmasters since 2016.
Mariel Cruz holds bachelor degrees in both Political Science and History from Santa Clara University, and planning to continue her education at law school. She is currently the Assistant Debate Coach for the Santa Clara University Debate Team and Young Genius debate coach. In addition, Mariel runs various college and high school debate tournaments throughout the Bay Area. Mariel has experience coaching and teaching high school students, working for schools like Gunn High School and Polytechnic School. She has also taught various debate and speech styles, such as Policy, Parliamentary, Public Forum, and Extemporaneous Speech at Santa Clara’s summer workshop for the last two years. Mariel started competing in policy debate as a freshman at Santa Clara University and continued debating her entire college career. She competed successfully at various regional and national tournaments, earning various awards. Santa Clara University’s Policy Team had been inactive for almost ten years. Mariel worked very hard to keep the policy team active and to bring Santa Clara University its first policy debate awards in almost a decade. She currently coaches Santa Clara University’s Parliamentary Teams, who have been very successful, reaching elimination rounds at various regional and national tournaments. Congratulations to Mariel's Saratoga High School Parliamentary Debate Team which was "Literally only one ballot away from winning the whole tournament!" at the the 2015 California State Tournament.
Mark Pfahnl an aspiring elementary school teacher who is a graduate of Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. He attended Northeastern University in Boston on a full academic scholarship but decided to transfer to San Jose State University to work toward a credential in the Teacher Preparation program there. He has extensive experience with elementary students in youth programs at the Children’s Discovery Museum in San Jose and as a volunteer aide in the Sunnyvale School District and has completed coursework in general linguistics, child language acquisition, second language education, and pedagogy. He is excited to use his skills as an educator to guide YG students toward their full expressive potential.