FAIRMONT - Every day for the past 30 years, Roxy Janke has tried her hardest to live up to the example she was shown by her high school speech coach.
"I became a speech teacher because I had a really fine speech teacher," she said.
Janke, one of Fairmont Area's speech coaches and an English teacher, had her efforts acknowledged recently, being named 2012 Minnesota Class A Speech Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Speech Coaches Association.
What her high school teacher had was passion for her subject and her students, the ability to understand her high-schoolers, and to teach them even when they didn't realize they were being taught; something Janke seems to have mastered as well.
"Without her, I would have been a teacher," Janke said, "but I wouldn't have had the passion for teaching I do. I try to live up to that bar every day."
She began her career teaching speech and coaching - it is both a class required for graduation and an extracurricular activity - as a graduate student at Minnesota State-Mankato, where she ended up teaching as an adjunct professor for 24 years.
When she joined the staff at Fairmont Area, the speech team had recently acquired her husband, Cliff Janke, as coach, but had a history of rotating coaches, leaving the team with an undulating record at competition. The school has had a team registered with the National Forensics League since 1966.
Since the Jankes took the reins, the team has had consistency in teaching that has led to a reputation locally and around the state.
During the Jankes time at the helm, one student broke the competition records for the number of gold medals won consecutively, another earned a spot at national competition, and many earned golds repeatedly.
Roxy Janke said what the class and club teach students are skills that can carry them wherever they end up.
"I tell my students, success comes in a variety of ways," she said, "but one way to succeed is to be an effective communicator. If you can communicate effectively, if you can think on your feet, back up your sources, and do it with a little bit of poise, you will be successful."
Janke believes every student can become an effective communicator with a little practice.
What Janke says she tries to teach her students isn't just how to project their voice, although that is part of it. Speech teaches students to think and organize their thoughts, to comprehend what they are reading, the importance of evidence to back up their statements, and appreciation of what literature is trying to communicate.
"I hope to give them the skills they need to be good employee and good college students," she said.
The Minnesota Class A Speech Coach of the Year is chosen through a voting process by members of the Minnesota Speech Coaches Association.