Faculty

We pledge to provide our students with exceedingly qualified faculty. Our faculty consists of successful and respected debaters, many of whom have been recognized for their achievements on the National level. They come from different backgrounds, but all have an abundance of insight and knowledge to share.

 

Our instructors are all Lexington High School alumni with 4-6 years of debate experience. In addition, current members of the debate team support the learning environment as lab assistants. We have a 4:1 student-staff ratio, which allows us to break into small groups and provide direct and targeted feedback for every student.

Every single instructor we hire has a unique skillset they have spent their own debate careers honing, and they will be eager to pass it on to your children. Our staff is committed to educating our students about debate in a fun, creative, and engaging way. They have all had extensive experience working with younger students and will go through rigorous training before instructing here to ensure your child has the best and most rewarding experience possible at our Institute.

 

2020 Faculty

At the NCFL Grand Nationals his junior year, culminating in a fifth-place finish.

Zack Schnall | Director

Zack is an officer of the Harvard Debate Council, representing Harvard at the 2019 National Debate Tournament, and an Assistant Coach at Lexington High School, working across all three divisions with a special focus in strategic argumentation and research. His students have gone on to win multiple tournaments, including the Yale Invitational and the Harvard Round Robin, and have amassed dozens of bids to the end-of-year Tournament of Champions. He graduated from Lexington High School in 2016 after competing in Policy debate for four years, with success on both the regional and national high school circuit, including a 5th place finish at NCFL Nationals and finals appearances at State Championships his sophomore and senior year. He taught the Novice Policy Debate class at the high school his senior year, and instructs at the Harvard Debate Council Summer Workshops earlier in the summer. Outside of debate, Zack is a research assistant with the Democratic Knowledge Project at Harvard’s Center for Ethics, where he is helping implement an 8th grade civics curriculum in Boston-area schools.

Education: Lexington '16, Harvard '21

Skills: Research, Strategic Argumentation, Communication

Zahin Ahmed | Director of Staff

Zahin has always had a passion for debate. He participated in Lincoln-Douglas for his four years at Lexington High School, competing on both the local and national circuit and winning awards across the board. Zahin graduated from Lexington High School in 2016 and currently attends New York University, where he studies neuroscience on the pre-med track. Zahin’s passion for debate followed him to New York, where he competes for the NYU Parliamentary Debate Team and has made it to multiple elimination rounds. When Zahin is not debating, he can be found in the lab. He works as a research assistant at the New York University Visual Neuroscience Lab, specializing in developmental psychology and infant motor skills. Zahin is also working on an independent research project with the goal of creating a cost-effective water filter for rural villages in southern Asia. He was a SIEMENS Competition Semifinalist and will be presenting his work at the New York University Undergraduate Research Conference this spring. 

Education: Lexington '16, NYU '20

Skills: Critical Argumentation, Organization, Humor

Adam Harrington | Instructor

Adam has been a member of the Lexington Debate Team since his freshman year. He started in Novice Policy, winning State Championships before switching to Public Forum, where he has spent the rest of his high school career. He has competed heavily in Public Forum, reaching elimination rounds and receiving speaker awards at national tournaments even as a sophomore. He finished his career taking third place at the NDCA National Championships. He loves debate for the skills it can teach, and believes that debating for LHS has been a hugely important experience for him and wants to give others the same opportunity to learn. He plans to study politics and government at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a result of his interest in politics, he has interned in the Massachusetts state house, and has worked on over two dozen political campaigns for offices ranging from selectmen to governor. 

Education: Lexington '17, University of Maryland '21

Skills: Argumentation, Pathos, Judge Adaptation

At Ridge his senior year, finishing as a semifinalist.

Ollie Rourke | Instructor

Ollie is an experienced debate instructor and competitor. In High School, he participated in four years of Lincoln-Douglas Debate and was successful on both the local and national circuits. Throughout his career, Ollie achieved several speaker awards and elimination round appearances, including championing the Shrewsbury Invitational. Ollie loves teaching the fundamentals of debate to young students, and he helped run the Diamond Middle School debate club. Outside of debate, Ollie has worked at several nonprofits that focus on alleviating economic inequality. He studies Political Science at Middlebury College. Ollie is excited to return for his fourth year at LDI!

Education: Lexington '19, Middlebury '23

Skills: Persuasion, Strategy, Critical Thinking

Ria Bhandarkar | Instructor

Ria is an incoming freshman at the University of California, Berkeley who did 4 years of policy debate at Lexington High School. She has been to elimination rounds at several national circuit tournaments, attended the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament her sophomore year, qualified for the Tournament of Champions her junior and senior years, and won the Massachusetts State Debate Tournament in the Varsity Policy division. Outside of debate, she loves political activism and journalism and considers debate to have been critical in shaping her views on political issues and her research skills. Ria is passionate about helping aspiring debaters and is thrilled to be working with students this summer!

Education: Lexington '20, UC Berkeley '24

Skills: Critical Thinking, Persuasion, Speech Efficiency

Bill Wu | Instructor

Bill's passion for debate started even before he joined the team as he attended debate camp at Dartmouth before joining his sophmore year! During his three years of competiton in policy debate, he has accumulated numerous accolades, championing the Kaiser Invitational and New England District Qualifier thereby allowing him to represent New England at the National Speech and Debate Tournament. When Bill is not competing, he is teaching debate; he was selected to instruct the incoming Novice Policy Debate course at Lexington High School and he has taught at Clarke and Diamond Middle Schools' debate clubs. At Skidmore College, Bill is the founder and president of the Skidmore Debate Team in addition to serving as a Senator on Skidmore's Student Government Association. He is thrilled to return for another summer of teaching!

Education: Lexington '19, Skidmore '23

Skills: Argument Innovation, Political Knowledge, Critical Thinking

Jinhee Heo | Instructor

During Jinhee’s four years of policy debate at Lexington High School, she has won the Dartmouth Debate Institute Tournament, competed at the National Speech and Debate Tournament, and was a quarterfinalist at the Rutgers-Newark Invitational and a semifinalist at the Kaiser Invitational. Jinhee has been an instructor at the Clarke and Diamond Middle School debate clubs as well as the Lex SPLASH debate course since her sophomore year. Outside of debate, Jinhee enjoys writing. She will be studying journalism at Northwestern University. Jinhee is excited to return to her second summer teaching at LDI!

Education: Lexington '20, Northwestern '24

Skills: Research, Critical Argumentation, Persuasion

 

Lab Assistants

Michelle Wu | Lab Assistant

Michelle is currently going into her third year of policy debate as a rising junior. She loves debating at the high school and accredits it for helping her grow as a persuasive speaker and critical thinker. During her first year of debate, she was a finalist at the Newark Invitational and won the New York Fall Faceoff while earning third speaker. This past year, she was the 20th speaker at the Yale Invitational and won the Little Lexington tournament while receiving second speaker. In addition, Michelle is an alum to LDI where she was first introduced to the activity. These past summers, she has also attended the Northwestern Debate Institute and the Michigan Debate Institute. Outside of school, she has experience working with students as a TA for The Math Club in Lexington. When not participating in these activities, she enjoys playing flute, snowboarding, and playing frisbee on the LHS Girls varsity team. Michelle can’t wait to be working with and teaching students this summer!

Education: Lexington '22

Skills: Clear Argumentation, Organization, Persuasion

Darren Tran | Lab Assistant

Darren is a rising junior heading into his second year of policy debate this fall. In his first year, he was the Tim Averill Invitational champion, a quarterfinalist at the Lakeland Westchester Classic, and a quarterfinalist at the 45th University of Pennsylvania Debate Tournament. He has also received multiple speaker awards, being 18th at Lakeland and 6th at UPenn. Additionally, Darren attended the debate club at Diamond Middle School as well as the LDI for two years before high school (winning the camp tournament in 2018). This summer, Darren attended the RKS Debate Workshops at Wake Forest University. Outside of debate, he enjoys learning about government and politics, and he is a scholar at the Michael Dukakis Institute. When not participating in these activities, Darren volunteers with the Lexington Intergenerational Outreach Club and competes as a part of the Quiz & History Bowl Team. Though mediocre, he also indulges in jazz piano with the LHS Big Band.

Education: Lexington '22

Skills: Pathos, Constitutional Knowledge, Persuasion

Larry Lin | Lab Assistant

Larry is a rising senior at Lexington High School and is going into his fourth year of policy debate. During his time competing, Larry has made it to the semifinals and quarterfinals at the 43rd and 44th University of Pennsylvania Tournament, respectively. From finding success early on in his debate career by winning the Massachusetts State Debate Tournament in the novice policy division, Larry has transitioned to mainly judging during his junior year, aiming to help novices grow as debaters. Larry also has worked with the middle school debate clubs and also teaches policy debate on the weekends to aspiring students. Next year, Larry will be a TA for the Novice Policy class and is excited to continue educating debaters. Outside of debate, Larry enjoys competing, teaching, and studying economics and biology.

Education: Lexington '21

Skills: Strategy, Research, Argument Innovation

Navya Sammeta | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Mahima Ramesh | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Austin Lin | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Brett Fortier | Lab Assistant

Brett is a rising junior going into his third year of Lincoln Douglas Debate, and has competed on both the local and national circuits. Over the course of his career, he has accumulated numerous accomplishments such as winning both the Newark invitational and the March Merryness Needham tournament, twice coming second in the Tim Averill invitational, being top seed at the Ridge invitational and breaking at the state tournament two years in a row. Brett has also attended both NSD Philadelphia and NSD Flagship which are 3 week overnight debate camps, coming 2nd in the tournament at NSD Philadelphia. Outside of debate, Brett enjoys playing basketball and works for a local Italian restaurant in the town center. Brett also volunteers with the Hastings STEM program and does drug intervention with middle schoolers and elementary schoolers through the high school. Brett is excited to teach at LDI and can't wait to get to teach people what he has learned!

Education: Lexington '22

Skills: Persuasion, Flowing, Humor

Jeffrey He | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Vinit Iyer | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Anna Kozlova | Lab Assistant

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Education: Lexington '22

Skills: 

Atul Venkatesh | Lab Assistant

Atul is a rising sophomore at Lexington High School. As a Freshman, he debated in the novice policy division. Debate has allowed him to immerse himself in a topic and gain expertise. Atul attended the Jonas Clarke Debate Club for three years before attending LDI in 8th grade where he was a finalist in the camp tournament. In his novice year, Atul was a quarter finalist at Ridge where he was awarded 11th speaker, a semi finalist at Newark where he was awarded 6th speaker, and the state champion where he was awarded 2nd speaker. Debate has also helped him build connections and make new friends. This summer, he is attending the Dartmouth Debate Institute. Apart from debating, Atul’s passions lie in the realm of sports. He is a football enthusiast and has played baseball for the last 9 years. He plays cricket on the national level. When not playing sports, Atul enjoys putting his photoshop skills to the test and volunteering at Shishu Bharathi, and Indian heritage school.

Education: Lexington '23

Skills: Clear Argumentation, Persuasion, Critical Thinking

 

Advisory Board

Sheryl Kaczmarek | Lexington Debate Coach

I am currently in my 35th year as a debate teacher and coach. I began my career at Brookfield Central HS in Wisconsin during the 1982-83 school year. In those days, I coached speech and policy debate, since the other types of debate had not yet reached Wisconsin (or been invented yet). After 10 years in Brookfield, I spent one year at Glenbrook North, teaching and coaching policy debate. I then went to Newburgh Free Academy, a public high school in the Hudson River Valley region of NY. I coached Policy, LD and PF in Newburgh for 21 years, before moving to Lexington three years ago. I now teach a full schedule of debate classes, including Policy, LD and PF. I am a Four Diamond Coach in the NSDA, a Key Coach at Emory and a member of debate coaching Halls of Fame in Wisconsin and New York. I am also a member of the TOC advisory board for Policy Debate, a member of the NDCA Executive Board and a member of the Tab Staff for Policy Debate at the NCFL National tournament.

Bill McKibben | Environmentalist, LHS Debate Alum

Bill McKibben is an author and environmentalist who in 2014 was awarded the Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’ His 1989 book The End of Nature is regarded as the first book for a general audience about climate change, and has appeared in 24 languages; he’s gone on to write a dozen more books. He is a founder of 350.org, the first planet-wide, grassroots climate change movement, which has organized twenty thousand rallies around the world in every country save North Korea, spearheaded the resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, and launched the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement.

The Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middlebury College and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he was the 2013 winner of the Gandhi Prize and the Thomas Merton Prize, and holds honorary degrees from 18 colleges and universities. Foreign Policy named him to their inaugural list of the world’s 100 most important global thinkers, and the Boston Globe said he was “probably America’s most important environmentalist.”

A former staff writer for the New Yorker, he writes frequently for a wide variety of publications around the world, including the New York Review of Books, National Geographic, and Rolling Stone. He lives in the mountains above Lake Champlain with his wife, the writer Sue Halpern, where he spends as much time as possible outdoors . In 2014, biologists honored him by naming a new species of woodland gnat - Megophthalmidia mckibbeni - in his honor.

In addition to his distinguished successes as an adult, back in high school he founded the Lexington Debate Team alongside coach Ray Karras, and with his partner Robin Jacobsohn he won our first state championship as a senior in 1978.

Chris Palmer | Founder of Tabroom.com

Chris Palmer has been coaching debate and speech for nearly 20 years. He's primarily coached Extemp, Lincoln-Douglas, Public Forum and Policy debate.  He's coached champions of the TOC, NSDA Nationals, Harvard, Yale, The Glenbrooks, Greenhill, the MBA Round Robin and many other tournaments.  He is currently an assistant coach at Lexington High School.

He is the founder and chief developer of Tabroom.com, the official online tournament platform working in partnership with the National Speech & Debate Association.  He is a recipient of the Michael Bacon Coaching Award, the National Debate Coaches' Association Service Award, and is a member of the TOC's Hall of Distinguished Service and the Emory University's Barkley Forum Gold Key Society.

Ken Lee | BOLD Representative

Ken serves on the Board of Directors for the Backers of Lexington Debate, where he has been Treasurer since 2012. He is the parent of two Lexington High School debaters, one in Policy and one in Lincoln-Douglas. In addition, Ken has served as a judge in both Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate tournaments.
 

Ken has worked with both for-profit and nonprofit companies over the past 30 years. Currently he is the Chief Financial Officer at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Massachusetts Bay. In addition, he serves on the Board of Directors at the Greater Boston Food Bank as their Treasurer. Previously, Ken was at Avery Dennison, where he was the Vice President of Global Business Services and Transformation and at A.T. Kearney, where he was a Partner and Vice President in their Organization and Transformation practice.

Nivedita Mehra | BOLD President, 2016-17

Nivedita has served on the Board of Directors for the Backers of Lexington Debate since 2015. She served as President in the 2016-17 year. She has a junior at Lexington High School who is a passionate Varsity Public Forum debater. Nivedita frequently volunteers as a judge for Public Forum debate. In her non-spare time, Nivedita heads up Product Management at Limelight Networks, a content delivery network provider headquartered in Arizona. Nivedita previously worked as a Senior Principal Product Manager at Oracle with their Commerce division, creating and managing mobile applications for Fortune 500 e-Commerce vendors. Nivedita has a Masters of Science from the College of Engineering from Northeastern University and an MBA from Boston University.

Anne-Marie Dinius | BOLD President, 2017-18

Anne-Marie has served on the Board of Directors for the Backers of Lexington Debate since 2016. She served as President in the 2017-18 year. She has one son who is a passionate Varsity Policy debater. Anne-Marie frequently volunteers as a judge for both Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate. In her non-spare time, Anne-Marie is a patent attorney, a job she has held for two decades. She runs her own law firm, AMDinius Law, where she works closely with inventors creating persuasive oral and written arguments, which help her clients achieve their business goals. 

Still unsure about the summer? We understand.

Contact

Questions? Contact us here, or reach us at lexdebateinstitute@gmail.com.

Tel: 857-302-0240

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