Communication and drama teachers assemble for annual state summit

Updated 9/21/2022 11:26 AM

High school teachers and college professors from across Illinois will converge upon the College of DuPage this weekend for ICTA "En Pointe: Keeping Us on Our Toes in 2022, the 93rd annual Illinois Communication and Theater Association Conference, from Thursday to Saturday, Sept. 22-24.

ICTA is the state's oldest, largest nonprofit professional affiliation for secondary and higher education teachers and coaches of communication, speech, debate, drama, and media.


The organization "advocates for the betterment of education in Illinois," said Ed Schwarz, ICTA executive director.

"All students, at all levels, deserve the best instruction possible from the best instructors possible," added Dana Trunnell, ICTA vice president. "As speech and theatre educators, we teach tomorrow's leaders the communication skills necessary for college- and workplace-readiness and constructive citizenship."

The conference features dozens of workshops and panel discussions on timely topics in education, including but not limited to reducing students' communication anxiety, using the performing arts to promote community service, highlighting the diversity of voices in public speaking and theatre, and incorporating mental health resources in speech, debate, drama, and media classrooms.

"ICTA engages educators through programing specific to current issues and important trends in communication and theatre education," Trunnell said.

ICTA also will present several awards, celebrating the accomplishments of teachers and students who demonstrate excellence in the fields of speech and drama.

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• The Edith Harrod Award will go to Bartlett High School speech and debate teacher Anthony Zoubek. The award, which acknowledges Zoubek's work on the ICTA Advocacy Committee, is the highest lifetime achievement honor that an Illinois speech, debate, and theater educator can receive while still working in the field. Zoubek has taught since 2006, and has coached Bartlett's competitive forensics team since 2007.

Over the last several years, Zoubek collaborated with the Illinois Education Association and several state legislators. That work led to bipartisan legislation, which added speech-debate to the Illinois School Code.

In a video address prepared for the convention, IEA President Kathi Griffin said, "Anthony is a force to be reckoned with. His passion for his work, for the betterment of students and for implementing change, is such a big part of why (the legislation) passed."

Lauren Morgan, professor of speech communication at College of DuPage, assembled Zoubek's nomination packet, which included letters from colleagues statewide.


Zoubek graduated with bachelor's degrees in Mass Communication, emphases in journalism and film study, and Speech Education from Illinois State University, and a master's degree in English Studies from Elmhurst University.

With Zoubek as its coach, the Bartlett speech and drama team won six of the last eight Upstate Eight Conference championships. In February 2020, Bartlett won the IHSA Regional championship -- a first for any speech and drama team in Elgin Area School District U-46.

The Harrod award was named after the late Edith Marjorie Harrod, who served as president of the Illinois Speech Association, was a member of the Illinois Board of Education, taught high school drama and English, and later became an associate professor of creative arts.

• The W.P. Sandford Award will go to Harper College speech professor Jeff Przybylo.

The award is named after the late University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana professor W.P. Sandford, who served as the Association's President in 1930 and 1931. The award honors an educator "who provides exceptional service to the association over an extended period of years and significant contributions to the field of speech and theater."

Przybylo "is one of the most revered teachers, coaches, and professionals in the State of Illinois," Lauren Morgan, professor of speech communication at College of DuPage, wrote in her nomination letter. "He is truly an inspiration to his students, his colleagues, and the ICTA community for his lifetime achievements."

Przybylo, who earned his undergraduate degree through Northern Illinois University and his master's degree through Illinois State University, is an ICTA past-president. He has presented over 50 panels and workshops at the annual convention. A professor of Communication Arts at Harper Community College, Palatine, for 27 years, Przybylo has also chaired the communication arts department and acted as interim Dean of Liberal Arts. Additionally, Przybylo served as the President of Phi Rho, the national community college speech and debate association, for nine years.

In its convention program, ICTA lauds Przybylo for being "at the forefront of the movement" to bring technology into the communication classroom: "Throughout his career, he's seen the basic speech course as an opportunity to not only teach basic public speaking skills but to engage students in technology, leadership, teamwork, and peer-coaching… He aims to shed the image of the professor as 'sage on the stage' and instead act as a coach who develops strategies to encourage students to get actively involved in their education."

ICTA members, including Judy Santacaterina, Director of Forensics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Northern Illinois University, helped assemble Przybylo's nomination packet.

"Jeff leads with an open mind, a compassionate heart, and beautifully exhibits the lost art of listening," Santacaterina wrote in her nomination letter.

Before they became colleagues, when Przybylo was a college undergraduate, Santacaterina was one of his teachers.

"Jeff is emblematic of the great reciprocity we find in teaching," Santacaterina wrote. "Those who were once the student are now the teacher, and those of us who were once the teacher are now the student. My former student continues to inspire me and motivate me. Through the darkest of times, Jeff Przybylo has been a shining star, providing students, colleagues, and community with inspiration, laughter, and hope."

• Richard A. Hunsaker High School Award will go to Bartlett High School graduate Joyce Yang. The award is given to a student who has been active in speech and drama activities and made significant contributions to their community and school. Now a student at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Yang participated in Bartlett forensics, among other activities.

Anthony Zoubek, Bartlett High School speech and debate teacher, assembled Yang's nomination packet with the help of her former teachers and coaches.

In his nomination letter, Zoubek wrote, "I've never met a student like Joyce, who so fully and acutely meets the Hunsaker award's requirements. She is an emissary of Bartlett High School. What she does after high school will make her new peers as proud to work with her as we at BHS were saddened to see her go."

In addition to forensics, Joyce also participated in Bartlett's Mock Trial program.

In his nomination letter, Richard Johnson, Bartlett High School law teacher and Mock Trial coach, wrote, "Joyce is one of the hardest working students I have come across in my 20 years of teaching. She is incredibly intelligent and never takes anything for granted. She works hard, asks great questions, and is always humble."

Yang's nomination was based on a number of accomplishments. She won multiple forensics Upstate Eight Conference Champion medals. As a junior, she qualified for the IHSA State Championship in two separate speech categories. Joyce double-qualified again, in her senior year, earning "Straight-1s" in preliminary and final rounds at the Regional and Sectional. The last time any School District U-46 student did this was in 1950.

As a high school senior, Joyce won first place in the 19th annual Voice of Democracy speech competition, a statewide program sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She maintained a 5.0 GPA in the dual credit program at Elgin Community College, earned Illinois Seals of Biliteracy in both Spanish and Mandarin, and was a member of four different Honors Societies--National, Science, Spanish, and International Phi Theta Kappa. Additionally, she started her own program to provide free English lessons to ESL students from China.

The Hunsaker award was named after Richard A. Hunsaker, who served as ICTA's President in 1972. He built a distinguished 30-year career with a longstanding impact on his students, teaching speech, drama, and debate at Belleville West High School, and later as a speech and debate coach at McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill.

"As an organization with statewide membership, we encourage Illinois educators to continue doing what they do best--enriching students' lives," Schwarz added. "By rewarding the state's best teachers, and some of their students, we don't just 'set a standard' for excellence. We raise the bar."

This year's conference also includes a keynote speaker, dance-related well-being events, mindfulness activities, a special performance of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play "Clybourne Park," and tours of COD's state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Lab and Speech Lab, and COD's homeland security training facility.