Written by Caitlin Cruz
Edited by Issa Napon
I always have had a problem with talking too much. In primary school, I wouldn’t break rules that injured someone, rather I would break rules that would interrupt quiet time. Quickly, I learned how to hold my tongue because that’s what good girls do, but I never understood what I was holding back. When I was 15, I enrolled in an extra class called “Forensics.” My friends made it sound fun and I needed to enroll in a non-athletic extracurricular that year.
Forensics is a competitive speech and debate class that teaches public speaking presentation and techniques while also preparing students to compete in local, regional and national tournaments against their peers. It made speaking into a sport. The class was taught by one of the most extraordinary women I have ever met. Her name is Sabrina Denney Bull. We called her Ms. Denney Bull or DB.
She was the first woman I met who was married but did not take on her husband’s name. Her preferred title was “Ms.” not “Mrs.” Her classroom was the first time I was taught why the world needed intersection feminism. She was the first teacher I heard tell students that the word “faggot” was not just inappropriate but also wrong.
She took my nervous energy and naturally proclivity to read almost anything and coached me into a national semifinalist in congressional debate. After years of dragging my feet, she convinced me that a limited (30 minute) prep event about national and world affairs was an event I could excel in. She taught me to trust my analytical abilities and voice I had.
While she taught me how to properly speak – with conviction, intensity, passion, memorized – she more importantly taught me why I speak. Sabrina Denney Bull taught me that the noise you’re putting out into the universe should be making the world better. She taught me that what I contribute to the world should be bettering it for someone else.
I believe journalism is noble work. Telling people’s stories is something worthwhile to spend my life doing. But I wouldn’t do any of that half as well without my three years of coaching by and four national trips with Sabrina Denney Bull.
She remains the lifeline of so many adolescents at my high school, and I hope they realize what a tremendous teacher they have.
Sabrina was one of my lifelines. And I owe her so much.