Three Honored With NFHS Outstanding Educator Awards In Theatre, Music & Speech & Debate

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Three Honored With NFHS Outstanding Educator Awards In Theatre, Music & Speech & Debate

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Graphic celebrating of NFHS Award Winners

Three outstanding individuals from the state of Illinois are among a total of 56 individuals have been selected to receive honors from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

The NFHS announced annual award winners for Outstanding Performing Arts Educator Awards from the, including 22 with Outstanding Music Educator Awards, 21 with Outstanding Speech and Debate Educator Awards, and 13 with Outstanding Theatre Awards. The 22 music honorees include seven section recipients and 15 state recipients. Eight individuals are receiving section awards in speech and debate and 13 will be honored with state awards. In theatre, there are seven section and six state recipients.

The winners with IHSA ties include Dr. Marie Wojdelski, Scott McDermott, and Laura Plummer. Wojdelski is a teacher and coach at Thornton Township High School who was named the Section 4 Winner of the Outstanding Theatre Educator Award. McDermott recently ascended to the Athletic Director position at Prospect High School and was named the Section 4 winner of the Outstanding Speech and Debate Educator Award for his efforts in the field prior to joining the Prospect administration. Plummer, the director of orchestras at Alton High School, was named the state honoree for the Outstanding Music Educator Award. A bio on each award winner is provided by the NFHS below:

Outstanding Speech and Debate Educator Awards
Section 4 Winner | Scott McDermott | Prospect High School
Headshot of Scott McDermottScott McDermott's journey in the world of speech and debate has spanned an illustrious 38 years, fueled by a passion ignited by teacher John Marquette. As a special education teacher, McDermott took a less traditional route to coaching, learning from mentors and giving back to the speech community through volunteering and mentoring. His co-founding of the Blue-Ribbon Speech Camp at Indiana University and later St. Mary’s stands out as a significant achievement, offering students a world-class experience at minimal expense. McDermott's coaching philosophy revolves around teaching individuals to share their stories, fostering understanding, and enabling them to become the best versions of themselves. His commitment to inclusivity is evident in his work with students facing various challenges, including those with cerebral palsy, anxiety, emotional problems, and stuttering disorders.

Transitioning to administration, McDermott continued to advocate for speech and debate, mentoring new and experienced coaches alike. As an administrator, he emphasized the importance of the skills learned in speech and debate, working to secure funding and support for arts-related programs. His dedication to growing programs and opportunities led him to enter students into the NSDA Middle School Tournament, resulting in notable successes. The extensive list of achievements includes coaching national champions, state champions, and numerous finalists across various speech events. Recognized for his outstanding contributions, McDermott received the John Hires Award in 2020 and has been nominated for the NSDA Hall of Fame in 2023.

Beyond the competitive realm, McDermott's leadership spread to various educational organizations, where he served on committees, mentored others, and contributed to the growth of speech and debate at both the state and national levels. Colleagues commend McDermott's energetic and dynamic coaching style, emphasizing his creativity, problem-solving skills, and commitment to cultivating an inclusive environment. McDermott's effect on speech and debate, education, and the lives of students is profound, marked by a long-standing commitment to inclusivity, mentorship, and the belief that everyone has a story worth sharing. His guidance, both as a coach and administrator, has left an indelible mark on the speech community and beyond.

Outstanding Theatre Educator Award
Section 4 Winner | Dr. Marie Wojdelski | Thornton Township High School

Headshot of Dr. Marie WojdelskiCelebrating her 20th year in education with an impressive array of roles at Thornton Township High School, Dr. Marie Wojdelski has dedicated herself to enriching the lives of students through theatre. Over her 18 years at Thornton, Dr. Wojdelski has showcased her versatility by teaching various theatre courses, including Stagecraft, Theatre Arts, and Speech communication. Notably, she has undertaken the role of the International Baccalaureate Theatre teacher for the past four years, consistently guiding students to earn college credit. As the theatre manager for 15 years, she actively engages with school productions and community rentals, contributing as a director, technical director, or assistant director. Dr. Wojdelski is a dedicated co-head coach of the Speech team, overseeing students in 14 different events and ensuring they gain valuable experience in public speaking. Serving as Thornton's Activity Director for 16 years, she maintains the quality of extracurricular programming, keeping students engaged and involved. Dr. Wojdelski's most notable achievements include multiple state final appearances, with cast members consistently earning awards at IHSA Drama/GI State Finals. Her commitment to students is recognized through Thornton's Five, Ten, and Fifteen-Year Service Awards, alongside the prestigious District 205 Student Board of Education Recognition Award.

A true artist and educational leader, Dr. Wojdelski's influence extends from her involvement in the creative process of stage productions to her role as a mentor shaping the lives of students. Her dedication to providing students with emotional support and helping them realize their potential has left a lasting impact, fostering a deep appreciation and connection with many. As an advocate for the transformative power of the performing arts, she instills in her students the belief that their craft can be a vehicle to transform their lives and achieve success.

Outstanding Music Educator Awards
State Award Winner | Laura Plummer | Alton High School

Headshot of Laura PlummerLaura Plummer currently serves as the director of orchestras at Alton High School, her alma mater, and has been doing so since 1995. Throughout her tenure, she has expanded the program drastically, introduced the Alton High School Chamber Strings, and led various ensembles to notable performances and recognitions.

Since 1988 when the first Outstanding Speech/Debate/Theatre Educator Awards were presented, 254 individuals have received section awards and 413 have been honored with state awards. The Outstanding Music Educator Awards began a year later in 1989, and 213 individuals have received section awards and another 394 have been honored with state awards. The Outstanding Theatre Award was given for the first time last year, separating it from the Outstanding Speech/Debate Educator Award, and 13 individuals have received section awards and 12 have earned state awards.  


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