Forensic Scientist: Sexton Begins 45th Season

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Hall of Fame coach has guided generations of local talent

By Justin Scherzer, Current Staff

Not many NFL coaches can claim a 45-year tenure, but there’s one living in West Bend.

Of course, the NFL in question is the National Forensics League, and the coach is Doris Sexton, who has served as a forensics and debate coach for East High School since 1971.

Sexton retired from teaching English at East in 2008, but continues to coach. Two weeks ago she started prepping students for the new forensics season, which starts in late January. The current debate season is already underway.

Sexton, who still substitute teaches on occasion, has always believed that both forensics and debate are activities that can be extremely beneficial to high school students, giving them skills in speech and communication that can be useful for the rest of their lives. Knowing this significant impact the activity can have on students is what has kept her going for so long.

“They’re activities that do wonderful things for kids,” Sexton said. “With debate they work a lot with research skills, organizing, and being persuasive, and forensics gives kids the opportunity to be in front of people and to communicate with them.”

Now that speech is no longer a required class at WBHS, Sexton is passionate about getting students exposed to the world of public speaking because she believes a huge problem current employers have with young employees is the lack of the ability to formally communicate.

“One of the major issues that most employers will often talk about is someone’s ability to talk, to explain things, for two people to sit down and come to some agreement,” Sexton said.

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Doris Sexton in 1989.

Sexton says that some of her most valued moments of being a coach are hearing from graduated students who had previously been a speaker or debater for her, and seeing what life has brought them. As a matter of fact, several current teachers at the West Bend High Schools had Sexton as a coach as well as a speech teacher.

One of these teachers is Skip Clark, a chemistry and anatomy teacher at East who had Sexton as both a forensics coach and a speech teacher. Clark, who graduated in 1989, remembers Sexton as a teacher who would bring joy to her students, as well as constantly push them to become the best speakers they could be.

“She was one of those teachers where you look forward to coming to class every day because you knew that she was going to make you laugh, and she was going to make you think about how you are going to be a better speaker,” Clark said.

Richard Prost, now an East physics teacher, graduated from West in 1994. At that time the forensics and debate teams for East and West were separate. Therefore, Sexton was never officially his coach. Still, Prost remembers how Sexton was always eager to offer him advice, even though he played for an opposing team.

“She helped me out quite a bit for both debate and forensics. She gave everyone from both East and West a lot of pointers with her huge amount of experience and expertise in the field,” Prost said.

In 1995 Sexton won the William Hintz Memorial Award for coaching excellence, which is presented annually at the state tournament by the Wisconsin Forensic Coaches’ Association. In addition, in 2015 Sexton was inducted into the WFCA Coaching Hall of Fame, an honor in which at least 20 years of coaching is required to be considered for a nomination.

However, Sexton’s accomplishments do not end there. Sexton was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Wisconsin Debate Coaches’ Association in 1993 (picture here), and in the 2010-2011 season for debate Sexton was voted coach of the year by the WDCA.

Sexton’s love for forensics is also advertised on her car’s license plate, which reads, “NFL COCH.”

For Sexton, that lifelong devotion to forensics started early. She has fond memories as a high school student of participating in forensics, and she even qualified for several national tournaments.

“It all started my freshman year when one day the English teacher came in and said to the class, ‘I’m looking for some kids to join forensics.’ I came from a parochial school that had no forensics program back then so I didn’t know what that was, but I volunteered. It’s the weirdest thing but it worked out.”

(Top image: Doris Sexton, right, coaches East sophomore Emily Kolb on Nov. 2. Photograph by Justin Scherzer, Current Staff. The archive photos are taken from Helios ’89, the WBHS yearbook for the 1988-89 school year.)

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The East English department in 1989. From left: Mary Beth Harkness, Jerry Meulemans, Doris Sexton, Rozanne Zeiger, Rick Riehl, Bridget King, Barb Yagodinski, Diane Thomas (then Diane Daley), and John Klein.

1 Comment

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One response to “Forensic Scientist: Sexton Begins 45th Season

  1. Mark Drake

    There’s a few things I’ve never seen in my lifetime – a unicorn, the Kraken, and an unprepared WBHS debater. Why? Because they don’t exist. Our debate program is second to none, and the awards speak for themselves. I’m very pleased to have so many debaters in class who beam with pride at their team’s accomplishments. Ms. Sexton puts in a massive amount of time into the program, and the students all appreciate it. To say that you’ve been a positive force for change in the lives of young people for 45 years – we can all only hope to be so lucky. Great article!

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