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.

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.


2019 Faculty

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

Zack Schnall | Director

Zack has been in love with debate since he was three, when he first attended a debate tournament – as an observer, of course! He is an active member 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 numerous 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: appearances in the elimination rounds were expected at almost every national tournament he attended throughout his career, including Harvard, Yale, Emory, and Michigan (alongside an invitation to their Round Robin), multiple National Championship tournaments, and finals appearances at State Championships his sophomore and senior year. He made it to the camp finals his last year as a high school competitor, so he knows exactly what it takes to succeed while still having a great summer experience. 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 school and debate, he is a political activist, chairing the Campus & Student Outreach Committee of the Boston Women's March, directing the National Operations Team for the Youth Action March, and leading college outreach for the March for Our Lives in Boston. Though he immerses himself in organizing, he keeps an open mind to political thought across the spectrum, and credits debate for training students to be tolerant of others' views.

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 | Onsite Director

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 | Onsite Director

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 helps run the Diamond Middle School debate club. Outside of debate, Ollie has interests in writing, politics, and sports. He served as the Editor-in-Chief of the LHS Literary and Arts Magazine and enjoys interning for political campaigns. Ollie also played for the LHS soccer team and volunteers as a LUSC soccer mentor. He plans on studying history and politics at Middlebury College. Ollie is excited to return for his third year at LDI!

Education: Lexington '19, Middlebury '23

Skills: Persuasion, Creative Argumentation, Critical Thinking

Peter Lawrence | Onsite Director

Peter was on the Lexington Debate Team all four years of high school. He started in Novice Policy before switching to Public Forum his sophomore year, where he has spent the rest of his high school career. Peter has competed heavily in Public Forum, reaching elimination rounds and receiving speaker awards at national tournaments. He finished his career taking third place and first speaker at the NDCA National Championships. Peter loves debate for the skills it can teach and believes that debating for LHS has been a valuable experience for him and gives others a chance to discover those skills. He studies Psychology and Philosophy at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Education: Lexington '17, Middlebury '21

Skills: Argumentation, Pathos, Judge Adaptation

Bill Wu | Assistant Onsite Director

Check back soon for Bill's bio!

Education: Lexington '19


Lara Bursal | Instructor

Lara has four years of debate experience in both Policy and Public Forum. She has reached elimination rounds and received speaker awards at several tournaments. Lara is committed to the debate team, having helped administrate both tournaments Lexington has hosted this year, in addition to coaching teammates at a local tournament instead of competing. She loves debate and values the wide variety of skills it teaches, inspiring her to start an educational outreach program between the team and the Waltham Boys and Girls Club. Outside of debate, she is passionate about social justice and politics, as a co-founder of the LHS chapter of the ACLU and a former intern for a Governor’s Council candidate. In her spare time, she enjoys both writing and filmmaking.

Education: Lexington '18, Northeastern '22

Skills: Judge Adaptation, Argumentation, Persuasion

Megha Prasad | Instructor

Check back soon for Megha's bio!

Education: Lexington '19


Charles Wang | Instructor

Charles Wang has four years of debate experience in both Policy and Public Forum. During his time on the team, he helped found the Public Forum Club, teaching young high school debaters looking to do PF the speaking and presentational skills necessary to thrive in both in and outside of debate. He believes that the only way to ensure that Lexington debate remains successful is to focus on training the next generation of debaters. As a result, he is also responsible in spearheading the initiative for a novice Public Forum class that will be available in the upcoming 2020 academic catalog at LHS. Outside of debate, he enjoys playing and teaching tennis; he played 4 years of varsity tennis for LHS.

Education: Lexington '19, UC Berkeley '23

Skills: Speech Efficiency, Critical Argumentation, Persuasion

Megan Ren | Instructor

Megan has four years of debate experience, starting in Lincoln Douglas before moving to Public Forum. In addition to competing at various local and regional tournaments, she was a part of the administrative team at Lexington High School, helping to run both the Lexington Winter Invitational and Little Lexington Tournament. Megan was a founding member of the Public Forum club at Lexington High School, and enjoys helping newer debaters become more comfortable with the form. Outside of debate, she plays for the Lexington varsity ultimate frisbee team. She will be attending Dartmouth College in the fall of 2019.

Education: Lexington '19, Dartmouth '23

Skills: Articulation, Legal Knowledge, Persuasion 

Evan Li | Instructor

Check back soon for Evan's bio!

Education: Lexington '19


Elias Benghiat | Instructor

Elias has experience in both Lincoln-Douglas and Public Forum debate, having competed successfully in both forms. He brings to the table a varied career, debating both on his own and with a partner. Elias was extremely committed to the Lexington Debate Team and helps with car washes and tournament operations. Outside of school, Elias coaches Elementary School students in creative problem solving through the Destination Imagination program and participates in food drives and charity events. When not participating in debate, he enjoys playing jazz trumpet and Ultimate Frisbee on the LHS Varsity Team.  Elias is looking forward to sharing his debate experience this summer at the Lexington Debate Institute.

Education: Lexington '19, Tufts '23

Skills: Critical Thinking, Argument Development, Coaching

Lab Assistants

Talia Blatt | Lab Assistant

Talia is a recent high school graduate. Next year, she will be heading into her fifth year of policy debate as a member of Harvard’s Debate Council. Talia has extensive experience as both a teacher and a competitor in multiple debate styles. During her junior year, she won and was the first speaker at the Massachusetts State Debate Tournament, and she won the University of Michigan’s Junior Round Robin. During her senior year, Talia won and was the first speaker at the Harvard Invitational. She has also qualified for and debated at all four major national tournaments: the NSDA, NDCA, NCFL, and the TOC. Talia worked as a teaching assistant in the novice policy debate class, and helped run debate clubs at the high school and middle school level. Outside of debate, Talia volunteers for the Lexington Historical Society and writes for the school newspaper. 

Education: Lexington '19, Harvard '23

Skills: Critical Thinking, Persuasion, and Strategy

Luke Eriksson | Lab Assistant

Luke is a rising senior at Lexington High School, entering his fourth year of Lincoln-Douglas debate. He has experience with local tournaments as well as the national circuit. Luke has consistently achieved winning records and co-championed the 2017 Shrewsbury Invitational with fellow staff member Ollie Rourke. Luke values the research and critical thinking skills that debate provides and is excited to share them with the next generation of Lexington champions. Luke is interested in political science, economics, and psychology. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and reading philosophy. He is interning for a state representative campaign this summer as well as a Cambridge based artificial intelligence research group.

Education: Lexington '19, NYU '23

Skills: Research, Argument Development, Explanation

Jinhee Heo | Lab Assistant

Jinhee will be heading into her fourth year of Policy debate this fall, having competed and judged on both the national and local circuits. 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 is one of the Editors-in-Chief of the Musket school newspaper and will be attending a creative writing fellowship in Boston this summer.

Education: Lexington '20

Skills: Research, Critical Argumentation, Persuasion

Ria Bhandarkar | Lab Assistant

Ria is a rising senior at Lexington High School who has been a policy debater since her freshman year. She has been to elimination rounds at several national circuit tournaments, reaching octafinals of the Harvard Debate Tournament, semifinals of the Lakeland Debate Tournament, octafinals of the Pennsbury Debate Tournament, and double-octafinals of the University of Kentucky Debate Tournament in her junior year. Additionally, she has qualified for the National Speech and Debate Association Tournament and the Tournament of Champions, won the Massachusetts State Debate Tournament in the Varsity Policy division and won second place at the University of Michigan Junior Round Robin. 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

Skills: Critical Thinking, Persuasion, Speech Efficiency

Caroline Li | Lab Assistant

Caroline Li is a rising senior at Lexington High School, and a rising 4th year debater and teacher assistant in the policy debate program. She has experience with middle school students in the Diamond debate club, and is an alumni of the Clarke debate club. Her debate accolades include Top 50 at the National Speech and Debate Association tournament, champion of the state debate tournament at the novice level, and winning the Breakout debates at the Mamaroneck Invitational debate tournament. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and music.

Education: Lexington '20

Skills: Persuasion, Critical Thinking, Education

David Cai | Lab Assistant

Check back soon for David's bio!

Education: Lexington '20


Poojitha Chandrashekar | Lab Assistant

Check back soon for Poojitha's bio!

Education: Lexington '20


Michelle Wu | Lab Assistant

Michelle is currently going into her second year of Policy Debate as a rising sophomore. Although she has only debated for one year, she was a finalist at the 2019 Newark Invitational and was the winner of the NY Fall Faceoff at Mamaroneck High School while earning third speaker. In addition, Michelle has attended the debate club at Clarke Middle School as well as LDI for the previous two years, and has recently attended the Northwestern Debate Institute this year. Outside of school, she has experience working with children as she is currently a TA for The Math Club and coaches elementary children in the Destination Imagination program. When not participating in these activities, she enjoys playing flute as well as frisbee for the LHS Girl's team.

Education: Lexington '22

Skills: Clear Argumentation, Organization, Persuasion

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.


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

Tel: 857-302-0240

    • Black Facebook Icon
    • Black Twitter Icon

    © 2019 Backers of Lexington Debate, Inc.