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SIOUX CITY -- The speech coach who turned heads throughout the Iowa High School Speech Association last year landed a top honor as yet another speech season is about to commence.

Emily Hageman, the coach who started the speech program three years ago at Siouxland Christian High School, was selected recently as the winner of the Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award, a $3,000 cash prize awarded in three annual installments of $1,000 apiece.

Hageman, 28, began teaching at the Christian school located in Sioux City six years ago, fresh off her graduation from Dordt College. She directed the band, choir and theater programs here, then added yet another extracurricular entree to her full plate.

"Another staff member, Angie Spake, who had a son in the speech program at East High, encouraged me to start speech at Siouxland Christian," Hageman said. "I didn't want another responsibility as I already had band, choir and theater."

Hageman, though, agreed to start the program and created some waves in the program's second year when the school's one-act play entry, "Back Cover," earned Critic's Choice, an honor reserved for the top one-act play entry in the entire state. Fellow Northwest Iowa programs at East High and Spencer High School also earned Critic's Choice awards in the 2018 large-group speech season for entries in choral reading and musical theater, respectively.

It was estimated that "Back Cover" topped 130 one-act plays that began the season in Iowa one year ago.

"We are now enamored with speech," Hageman said on Wednesday at the school. "We have 40 students in speech. It is the largest extracurricular program at the school."

"Back Cover" has also hit the road. Hageman, who wrote and directed the production, has allowed seven schools in various parts of the country to perform the one-act entry this year. Those schools have paid the author of the screenplay a rights fee. She's also working to get the work published, thereby expanding its availability for others. Siouxland Christian students last performed "Back Cover" in April during an academic banquet hosted by the Kiwanis Club at the Sioux City Convention Center.

The success for Hageman's program didn't start and stop with the one-act play. There were 10 entries at Siouxland Christian in large-group and individual speech that garnered all-state nominations during the past academic year.

"Ms. Hageman has the rare combination of maintaining high standards of excellence for her students while also fostering an environment of love and support," noted Steve Peters, the former Siouxland Christian superintendent of schools in a letter of recommendation for the award. "Students work hard and want to please her; to perform well, as they see meaning along with opportunity and the family atmosphere Emily fosters."

Senior Dylan Kvols agreed, saying, "She's our favorite teacher. She's genuine, honest and intense about her work. She doesn't break us, but rather bends us to a great extent in a good way."

"You feel like you're not in class when you're in her class," said Austin Yanney, another senior. "She intentionally cares for each and every student."

Mikellie Grant, a senior, laughed and noted that Hageman knows how to bring out the best in her performers. "When you don't have your lines memorized, you get 'The Look.'

Eight students began rehearsing this year's one-act play, "The Cages We Build," on Sept. 10. They'll unveil the work, which was written and directed by Hageman, along with the school's other large-group speech entries during a showcase at Siouxland Christian on Dec. 10.

"'Cages' is about a newborn who grows as his parents split up," Yanney said. "He grows and, while longing for companionship, grows bitter. A girl in high school meets him, loves on him and doesn't give up on him."

Yanney said the production's message centers on the barriers we erect around ourselves, the very barriers from which we need to break free.

The award Hageman won will aid her in paying for future play-writing conferences and trips. It may also help her further her education.

The Richard Riggleman Young Speech Coach Award was established by Richard Riggleman of Deloit, Iowa, as a way to honor a second- or third-year speech coach. The award, according to the Iowa High School Speech Association Executive Director Craig Ihnen, is the first of its kind within the organization. Riggleman, a coach for 30-plus years, remains active with the state organization. He was inducted into the Iowa High School Speech Association Hall of Fame in 1994.

Hageman is the 24th recipient of the young coach award.

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