435 Main Ave S | Renton, WA 98057 | (425) 687-8585
Hall of Fame Inductees



WIAA Hall of Fame Contact

WIAA Assistant Executive Director
(425) 282-5237

Joel Underwood
Fine Arts, Seattle Academy

Joel is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Speech (1990) and the Speech Education program at Metropolitan State University of Denver (1996).

He currently teaches History and Speech at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he chairs the Department of Rhetoric and coaches the school’s competitive team.

Under Joel’s leadership, Seattle Academy has won the WIAA State 3A Speech Team Championship the past nine years, and 11 of the last 13. He has produced 23 Individual State Champions, over 100 Washington State Finalists, and the 2011 National Individual Events Tournament of Champions winner in Expository Speaking.
He has also coached national competitors, and was recently awarded his second “diamond” for coaching excellence by the National Speech and Debate Association. As Speech and Debate coach at Seattle Academy, he has received their “Building Our Future Award” (November, 2010), was named the Washington State Forensic Association (WSFA) Coach of the Year (March, 2011), and was recognized as Teacher of the Future by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) (September, 2013). He received the NFHS Coaching Award for Speech/Debate/Theatre for the Northwestern Region of the U.S. (2013).
During his career, Joel has worked tirelessly to improve the State Tournament experience for all WIAA speech competitors, both as the chair of District 2, and the head of multiple committees. He created the position of a State Tournament Ombudsman to deal with problems during the State Tournament, and codified the process for script and materials inspection during the regular season. Joel also coordinates the other district chairs as they prepare their schools prior to the March Championships. His goal is not only for his own team to be successful, but for every speech competitor in Washington to have a sense that this activity is fair, efficient, and fun. 

Joel’s summer clinic for new coaches has provided many aspiring Washington debate coaches with the right tools for team success, and the knowledge that they have a mentor that they can look to for years to come in their own careers. In fact, some of his current competitor coaches are former team members, and his “coaching tree” will likely continue to grow.
Whether it is spending extra time with his own team members, watching a novice debate and offering tips via Skype, or taking local competitors to tournaments, Joel has had an undeniably powerful, positive, and enduring impact on the activity of Speech and Debate in Washington.

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