Joe Kalka hopes to propel speech to new heights


Photo submitted Gursimrat Dahry

The speech team is hard at work at practice last season. Head speech coach Joe Kalka hopes to bring a new perspective to this team when the season starts in November.

Ally Benning, Podcast Reporter

The speech team had success last year under former head coach (now assistant coach) English teacher Laura Hammond. Last year, the team placed fourth in sections and had six people qualify for the state tournament, the most in the program’s history. Joe Kalka, 2018 MSHSL Class 8A North Coach of the Year, is this year’s new head coach.

During his five years as the head coach for East Grand Forks, Kalka has coached two top five State speech teams, 17 individual state finalists, four state champions, three national quarterfinalists and one national finalist.

“He’s a really good speech coach,” sophomore Kyra Kellogg said. “He has so many ideas, and he’s very confident and believes we can do all sorts of stuff.”

The transition to a new team should be easy for Kalka. He said he is joining a team with a really strong culture and sense of community. Kalka wants to make sure he keeps the cohesion in tact, and sees a lot of potential for this experienced team.

“This is an amazing opportunity to join such a caring, close-knit community while seeking to build a program,” Kalka explained. “Stillwater can be a top 10 speech team in the state. It will take time, but I am confident in the current makeup of the team as well as the massive potential for new students to join. I cannot wait to start the season.”

“This is an amazing opportunity to join such a caring, close-knit community while seeking to build a program.”

— Joe Kalka

A strong culture is already formed, therefore, Kalka can focus on improving the team’s speech skills. His competitiveness and focus for both individual and team growth should help the team meet his high expectations.

“I consider myself a very versatile coach,” Kalka added.  “I enjoy coaching both the competing speaking events like informative speaking and original oratory (persuasive speaking) and competitive acting events like humorous interpretation and duo interpretation. I also absolutely love sharing with new students what speech is and consider myself a strong recruiter.”

The team has high hopes for this season. Kalka has some goals of “expanding the team and awakening the beast that is the Stillwater speech team.” They had 17 people on the section roster last season, six of whom went to state.

“While we still have to vote on goals as a team, in this first year, we are looking at things like placing top two at sections and bringing eight students to the state tournament, which is the most competitive state speech tournament in the country,” Kalka explained.

The team has a clear image of how they want the season to play out. Captains Grace McDonough and Khuluc Yang help them stay focused on their mission.

“Our captains have helped a lot with making things organized and making sure we’re all going to practices,” junior Annika Fredeen explained.

“I love that speech gives me the opportunity to guide and connect with students, and I pride myself on my ability to do that at a high level,” Kalka said.