GIVE YOUR CHILD THE LIFELONG GIFT OF CONFIDENCE THROUGH SPEECH AND DEBATE!
Meet the Bay Area Debate 2018-2019 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, B.A. in Theatre Arts and Performance Studies and B.B.A. International Business.
Taisia Dubinina, our Principal graduated from the University of San Diego, Honor’s Program with a Magna Cum Laude and a dual degree. 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, B.A in Classics, an M.A. in Organization & Leadership, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership
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.
Huda Navaid is a senior studying political science and creative writing at Santa Clara University.
Huda Navaid is a senior studying political science and creative writing at Santa Clara University. She has two years of competitive speech and debate coaching experience at Cupertino High School and has coached Young Genius summer programs as well. She has also been a debater at Santa Clara University for the past three years and was one of the team's co-captains this past year along with being co-president of the Model United Nations team. Over the summer, she served as a research fellow in Rwanda and Uganda through the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the All Across Africa social enterprise. On campus, she is involved in many activities including working as an Emergency Medical Technician and a Peer Educator. Off campus, she pursues leukemia research at UCSF and runs a student mental health initiative in Palo Alto. Huda is extremely passionate about working with youth on improving their public speaking abilities and honing their competitive speech/debate skills. After college, she hopes to pursue a path that will allow her to get involved in utilizing policy-based initiatives to allow mental and general healthcare services to be more accessible to minorities and women.
LEAH AMMON, BA IN BOTH ART HISTORY AND HISTORY AND MA IN INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES
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.
Victor Lopez, B.A. in Political Science and in Italian
Victor Lopez, B.A. in Political Science and in Italian. Victor is a graduate of the University of Arizona with a B.A. in both Political Science and Italian. Victor has competed in Speech & Debate since middle school. In high school, Victor was a four-year competitor with the James Logan High School Speech & Debate team. He competed in Congress, Public Forum, Extemporaneous, and Impromptu speaking. During high school, Victor was able to compete in numerous tournaments across California and throughout the country. While in Arizona, Victor used his experience in speech and debate to transition into collegiate mock trial. At Arizona, Victor competed all four years with the University of Arizona Mock Trial team. During his collegiate career, Victor won numerous best attorney awards and captained his team all four years. The Arizona team constantly ranked as one of the top programs in the nation and Victor established himself as a vital member of the program. Victor now works at one of the top plaintiff law firms in San Francisco and manages trial work and preparation. He hopes to apply to law school and follow his passion of public speaking and turn it into a career.
Soumya Kandukuri, BA with Distinction, Diplomacy and World Affairs; Minor, East Asian Studies from Occidental College, Los Angeles,
Soumya Kandukuri is thrilled to be working with the next generation of competitive
speech and debate students because of the incredible impact speech and debate has had on herlife. During high school, Soumya served as the captain of Lynbrook High School’s Spontaneous Speaking team for three years, coaching and competing in National and Internationa Extemporaneous Speaking and Impromptu Speaking, as well as Parliamentary and Public Forum Debate. She excelled in growing her teammates’ confidence with speaking “on-the-spot” and making intimidating political and economic topics accessible and interesting to her teammates.
Her strong performances in finaling and winning multiple Bay Area circuit tournaments in
Extemporaneous and Impromptu Speaking was elevated by the fact that her students also found success in their tournament performances. Soumya’s love for speech and debate and the critical
and global thinking skills it fosters has led her to pursue a career at the intersection of diplomacy and law. A graduate of the Diplomacy and World Affairs program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, Soumya interned at the United Nations for the United Kingdom Mission and found that
her speech and debate skills were extremely beneficial when working with UN diplomats on issues of sustainable development. She plans to attend law school next year and, in the future,
hopes to work on US-China relations.
MADISON LAIRD , B.A. IN POLITICAL SCIENCE AND A MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
Madison Laird debated and did individual events in the seventh and eighth grades at Goodpasture Christian School in Nashville, TN. He debated and did individual events in grades nine through twelve at the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, TN, where he was top individual speaker at many national tournaments including the Glenbrook South Tournament in Chicago, Illinois and the Barkley Forum at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He also consistently appeared in many late elimination rounds, including winning first place finishes at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois and the Pine Crest Invitational in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. In his high school career, he qualified for the Tournament of Champions in Lexington, Kentucky four times and NFL Nationals twice.
In college Mr. Laird attended Loyola Marymount University where he debated for four years. He consistently received individual speaker awards, including top speaker at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He also consistently appeared in many late elimination rounds, including winning first place finishes at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California and at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He qualified for Nationals three times, including a quarter-final and semi-final finish.
Mr. Laird taught debate and individual events at Harvard-Westlake School in North Hollywood, CA, including coaching the California State Lincoln Douglas champion. He has contributed to several debate handbooks, been an instructor at ten different summer camps, and is the author of Mastering Debate Fundamentals, a textbook and video series on debate.
Mr. Laird has an extensive career in business, including starting two companies and working at the headquarters for both IBM and Cisco Systems. He has delivered lectures in Masters programs at New York University, the University of North Carolina, and California State University at Northridge and taught a full master’s course for the University of Toronto extension in Hong Kong, China. He has received many awards and is a frequent author and interviewee. He holds a B.A. in political science and a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Loyola Marymount University.
work toward a credential in the Teacher Preparation program working
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 our students toward their full expressive potential.