Meet Mr. Thadeus Smith: a jack of all trades

in Features by
One of Mr. Smith’s proudest moments was when two of his students became national champions. (Photo/Jim Halling)

A nationally recognized debater, a Wikipedia editing extraordinaire and a student pilot, Mr. Thadeus Smith is a multi-faceted, public-speaking guru. 

Joining Heritage for the first time this year, Mr. Thadeus Smith began his speech and debate career in middle school, participating in mock congress trials as a social hobby. However, because of a lifelong speech impediment preventing him from properly pronouncing the sound “Th,” he grew insecure of not being able to pronounce his first name, among other words. This prevented Smith from expressing himself outwardly during childhood; oftentimes he would speak only when necessary. 

To grow his confidence, Smith’s mother signed him up again to take speech and debate classes in high school. Although reluctant at first, Mr. Smith learned to take each of his speeches as an opportunity to not just practice his pronunciation, but also as a chance to share a new perspective.

As his confidence grew, so did his love for debate. Through all four years of high school, Smith competed in all sorts of competitions ranging from original oratory (a 10 minute speech) to extemporaneous speaking (an unprepared seven-minute speech) to public forum (a partner-debating event). As a top 10 international debater in public forum his senior year of high school, Mr. Smith believes that because he competed in a multitude of events, he picked up skills necessary for any kind of public speaking. 

Prior to joining the Heritage Speech and Debate team as a coach, Mr. Smith worked alongside ESL (English as a Second Language) students in Seattle. As first generation immigrants, many of his students learned English through the lens of speech and debate. “My most proud moments coaching speech and debate have been when my students are in their rounds, and they struggle to find the right word to express what they’re thinking,” Mr. Smith said. “But when they finally do, their eyes light up with joy.”

Because of the abundant resources Heritage offers, Mr. Smith decided to bring his mentorship to South Florida. “Heritage is much different than where I worked in [Seattle], the students here are highly competitive and dedicated, with mentors that have competitive backgrounds too,” Mr. Smith said.

Outside of debate, Mr. Smith enjoys editing Wikipedia articles. To date, he has edited over 26,000 articles. “When I was 13, I saw a typo on a Wikipedia page,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been editing.” Fitting to his career, Smith wrote a full Wikipedia page “Competitive debate in the United States.” Mr. Smith also enjoys learning to fly planes and has been attending flight academy since high school. 

As a new Heritage coach, Mr. Thadeus Smith looks forward to adding a fresh, new perspective to the program while still fostering champions.

This is Lauren’s second year on the staff. She enjoys playing Papa’s Sushiria, taking naps and writing whatever’s on her mind. She’s excited to make this year the best one yet and have an awesome entertainment section.