Coach Profile: Jessica Thomander

This week, we're happy to launch a new feature profiling the people at the heart of our work: the coaches, staff and students who make magic possible. Our inaugural spotlight falls on Jessica Thomander, one of the amazing Coaches in our league. 

The EPAPA Debate team had a strong showing at the Championship Tournament on 4/30, thanks to coaches Jessica Thomander (kneeling, right) and Hanna Kurowski (standing, right)

The EPAPA Debate team had a strong showing at the Championship Tournament on 4/30, thanks to coaches Jessica Thomander (kneeling, right) and Hanna Kurowski (standing, right)

Jessica moved to the Bay area in 2010 to work in marketing for a software company before Frederick Douglass’ quote inspired her: “It’s easier to build strong children than to fix broken men.” Coach Thomander went back to grad school and became a teacher. She teaches at East Palo Alto Phoenix Academy and came fresh to debate and coaching this year, ramping up through what she lightheartedly refers to as "baptism by fire.” 

Her desire to nurture strength in young people fuels her new passion for debate. She “love(s) seeing the confidence and passion that debate gives my students. I’ve seen so many of them transform over the course of this year, in their public speaking, in their reasoning skills, as well as in their academic skills. Once they catch the debate bug, they’re hooked and talk about their debates, spend time outside of class researching their topic, and devote after school hours and entire Saturdays (or sometimes weekends) to debate! In a time in life where so many of them are caught up with social media and their interactions with peers, nothing is cooler than to see a van load of kids waiting outside the school for me at 7:30 am on a Saturday morning to go to an all-day tournament, willingly, for fun! We’re making smart cool.” Thank you Jessica for all you do for tomorrow's leaders!