Russell Tidwell

This fall will mark the start of the 25th year of teaching for Oklahoma Panhandle State University graduate and Garden City High School Head Debate and Competitive Speech Teacher and Coach Russell Tidwell.

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The faculty members were incredibly instrumental and patient with me and helping me figure myself out as a student.

Russell Tidwell

Born and raised in Guymon, Okla., Tidwell began pursuing a degree in Animal Science at Panhandle State immediately following graduation from Guymon High School.

“It was close to home and what I could afford.”

Tidwell’s interest gradually shifted as he began to take more and more speech and debate classes, a love that got its start for him as a junior in high school at speech and debate competitions.

Tidwell graduated from Panhandle State in 1993 with a double major in Speech and English as well as a minor in Education making him the first in his immediate family to graduate with a college degree.

During his time as a student, Tidwell was involved in some of the school plays both on stage and back stage as well as serving as an active member of the Baptist Student Union (BSU).

He served as a student manager for several BSU student members who traveled together all over the Oklahoma Panhandle performing at church buildings and at 5th quarter events.

One of the highlights of his college career comes from meeting his wife, Debbie. She too is an Alumni of Panhandle State earning a Music Education degree. Debbie is currently teaching in Holcomb, Kan.

As far as the impact Panhandle State had on his future, “In my career, my professors had the biggest impact and the BSU had the biggest impact on how I approached life in general. It was a cool time.”

He added, “The faculty members were incredibly instrumental and patient with me and helping me figure myself out as a student.”

“There are three professors that I can hear coming out in my teaching or that I see framing the way I look at educating kids. Dr. Richter’s approach to writing made me a lot better writer and evaluator of work. Russ Guthrie’s patience impacted me in a big way. Tom Lewis was a huge impact on the way I think about working with kids. He made us dig really deep and think in different ways.”

Tidwell is certainly passionate and intentional about the work he does each day as he commented, “I am constantly trying to find ways to be better.”

Garden City High School is the fifth largest high school in the state of Kansas. Each fall, Tidwell coaches 60-70 kids in debate contests with the season running from late September to late January. The spring is similar as he has right at the same number of kids participating in forensics contests which start the weekend following state debate contests and run through the first weekend of May. Most weekends, Tidwell has students out competing somewhere.

Over the years, Tidwell has been selected for a number of honors. Most recently, he was inducted into the West Kansas National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Hall of Fame. This is the highest recognition a speech and debate advisor can achieve in the West Kansas District Honor Society. In addition, he was selected as the NSDA 2017-2018 Kansas Educator of the Year. He has earned the honor of the Crystal Apple Teacher for the County, a student nominated award that put him in the running for the Kansas Teacher of the Year.
Currently, he is the Class 6A Representative for Speech and Debate and he runs the state tournaments for both.

He and his wife have one son, David, who will be in his classes this fall at Garden City High School. The couple is very active in their church and spend much of their summers traveling places to perform music.

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