In the Wasatch Independent Debate League we are
serious about creating the most exceptional, academically
rigorous, and inspiring educational experience that a student
The class is about speaking and debating, but is just as much
about critical thinking, being able to organize thoughts,
understanding important ideas and current events, and being
part of a community of students striving to succeed. We want
students to be able to debate, but it is more important to us
that they develop the skills and mindsets which will prepare
them to engage critically in communities, government,
business, education, and life. Classes begin with half an hour of
discussion and debate on current events, politics, moral issues,
and big ideas. During this time students get to match wits with
their teacher and are challenged to think more deeply than
they ever have before.
In lessons students will gain thinking, speaking, and debating skills and apply them to events such as Impromptu Speaking, Spontaneous Argument, Extemporaneous Speaking, Oratory, Student Congress Debate, Presidential Debate, and Lincoln Douglas Debate.
In class, students spend their time thinking, discussing, researching, and, more than anything, speaking and debating because that is what makes the class exciting and that is how students learn best. By being in the class, students are members of the Wasatch Independent Debate League and compete in WIDL tournaments. Competitions are motivating and challenging growth oriented experiences. They also provide a community of successful people with whom students can engage.
Interested? Check out our class schedule, or fill out our interest form to get in contact with us:
Samuel Martineau has been teaching speech and debate in the homeschool community for thirteen years. He is the founder and director of the Wasatch Independent Debate League, which has been introducing homeschooled students to academic debate for the past ten years. He has also seen significant success as a mock trial coach including coaching two top ten teams at the National Mock Trial Tournament.
Samuel Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Weber State University with a B.S. and teaching certificate in Communication Teaching and a minor in History Teaching.
He also recently won the KSL Teacher Feature Teacher of the Week Award.
Founder, Director, Teacher
Amber Johnson graduated from Utah Valley University in 2018 with a degree in Communications. Since then, Amber has taught elementary education at the Family Lyceum, a private school in Odgen; served as a Program Head and board member for Heroic Youth, a non-profit organization; and headed the 2017 leadership course for AISU's Chinese Foreign Exchange Program. Amber has also worked for six years as a public librarian, and was the Assistant Coach for the 2020 Heber Valley Zion Academy Junior High Mock Trial Team.
In her secondary education Amber spent six years in the Wasatch Independent Debate League, winning the overall award for Outstanding Performance in her senior year.
Amber is married to Jared Johnson, and they have two children.
Jantzen Russell has years of teaching experience in charter schools, summer camps, and church assignments. In total, he's mentored and taught over a thousand kids. Jantzen is also the owner of the marketing company Revox Marketing.
As a WIDL alumnus, he's passionate about good communication and epic speeches. As a student, his favorite event was Oratory in which he was a regular top five finisher. Jantzen was also a key team member of the first homeschool mock trial team to make it to the state championship in Utah.
Jantzen is a father of two and married to the most beautiful woman in the world. He enjoys running, reading, and making dad jokes.
Rachelle Scott is a season-ticket-holding Sun Devil grad. She met her husband at an Arizona State University basketball game and they now have six little devils!
She is a business owner, director of a law firm, and a homeschooling mama. She values learning and has broadened her education by becoming a cosmetologist, a triathlete, and even a ham radio operator. She enjoys continuing to learn by attending BYU Education Week annually, traveling with her family, and trying to figure out how to get things to grow in Arizona.
She loves teaching and has spent years directing youth camps and women’s retreats, coaching sports, mentoring speech competitions, and serving in her local communities and church. She’s thrilled to be taking on the challenge of expanding the debate program in Arizona!
A successful homeschool and college graduate, Jared Johnson is committed to providing high-quality courses for students pursuing alternative educations. His own education was rich and diverse, including high school college courses, AP classes, Mock Trial, Model UN, and the Wasatch Independent Debate League. These experiences prepared him for early college at Utah Valley University, a mission in Kentucky for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Brigham Young University.
Jared taught Speech and Debate for four years before transitioning to an IT career. He also coaches junior high and high school mock trial teams, and serves on the Communications and IT committee of the National High School Mock Trial board. He lives in American Fork, Utah, with his wife and two kids.
Charlotte McKenzie is a homeschooling mom - now for over 20 years. She has organized, taught and coached many classes over those years including Mock Trial, Shakespeare and lots of Knights of Freedom and Liberty Girls. So far, 4 out of her 5 children have participated in speech and debate and all of them have loved and benefited from it.
Charlotte graduated from BYU in Human Development and has started several businesses. She loves to organize, get things done, plan a great trip or experience, and take on big projects. She is married to Jon and mom to James, Madeleine, Nathaniel, Caleb and Emma.
Parents: Is My Student Ready?
For beginning classes it is recommended that students generally start at age 13. If your child is 12 and you want to know if taking the class is a good fit, ask yourself these questions:
Does your child want to take the class on their own, or are you having to push them? A desire to begin speaking ones thoughts is a good indication that a student’s mind is getting ready for speech and debate.
Is your child beginning to consider the world beyond their immediate experience? If they are, this demonstrates that they are moving into the world of higher order cognition and may be ready to take on speech and debate. If they are not, then you may wish to have them wait another year as they may find speech and debate frustrating.
Is your child ready to start doing homework every week? This is a requirement of the class, and there is little in class time to address study skills. Students who aren’t ready to do homework on a weekly basis will be more likely to flounder in the class.
If you want to consider an intermediate class, consider the following items:
Only older and more mature students are generally allowed to skip beginning.
There is content taught in beginning classes which is not revisited in later classes.
Students in advanced classes do a great deal of self directed work.
The Wasatch Independent Debate League is dedicated to
creating the best possible educational experience for its students.
We are devoted to the idea that students who can conduct effective
research, critically examine ideas and arguments, and thoughtfully
and dynamically express themselves reap benefits in every area of
life. We are also devoted to the idea that the best education has to
offer is challenging, inspiring, and interesting to the student.
The core principles of our approach to debate are:
A focus on active learning to achieve growth in skills
Helping students grow as people and not just competitors
Creating a competitive environment that bring out the best in students
We believe that speech and debate should prepare a student to
have an impact on the real world. We avoid preparation and speaking strategies which impede that goal such as spewing, formulism in speeches, and purchasing evidence and arguments. Additionally, we rely on lay judges, because they best represent the audience students will most likely face in future life.
Interested? Check out our class schedule, or fill out our interest form to get in contact with us:
2008 The Wasatch Homeschool Debate League is founded by Samuel
April 25, 2009 The WHDL holds its first tournament at Provo Community
Church. Approximately 35 students attend. Competitive events include Spar,
Impromptu, Student Congress, Oratory, Extemporaneous, and Lincoln
2009-2010 The WHDL kicks off its relationship with the Weber State Debate
team. Weber State University hosts three competitive events in the school
year. Attendance at competitive events averages approximately 50 students.
April 9-10, 2010 The WHDL holds its first championship tournament including elimination rounds and end of year awards. The "Spring Championship" is hosted at Weber State University.
2010-2011 The WHDL commences partnerships with the University of Utah and LDS Business college as each institution hosts the WHDL for a tournament. Tournament attendance in this year rises to an average of approximately 80 students.
2011-2012 Samuel Martineau coaches the first ever WHDL mock trial teams. Both teams make quarterfinals, and one team advances to semifinals in the state competition. The Spring Championship tournament is moved to Davinci Academy in this school year. Tournament attendance averages approximately 110 students.
2012-2013 The WHDL continues steady growth in numbers and competitive atmosphere. Tournament attendance increases to an average of approximately 130 students.
2013-2014 The WHDL commences a partnership with Brigham Young
University as BYU Independent Study hosts two WHDL tournaments. The
WHDL welcomes the South Davis Liber Academy debate team into the
league. Tournament attendance averages approximately 155 students.
The WHDL mock trial teams again compete very successfully with one team
making quarterfinals, and the other taking second in state to Woods Cross
March 1, 2014 State Student Congress is added as a competitive event in
the Wasatch Homeschool Debate League. In this event students operate as
a state congress for the state of Utah.
2014-2015 The WHDL welcomes the American Heritage School debate team into the league. Competitions are held at Brigham Young University, the University of Utah, Weber State University, LDS Business College, and American Heritage School. Tournament attendance holds steady from the previous year. Mock Trial teams from the WHDL again compete very well. The high school team makes it to state quarterfinals. The junior high school team makes it to state finals.
June 1, 2015 The Wasatch Homeschool Debate League elects its first executive board. Board members include parents of students, former students, and teachers in the WHDL. The board approves a name change, and the creation of a new competitive division for the school year 2015-2016.
Aug 31, 2015 The Wasatch Homeschool Debate League is officially
renamed the Wasatch Independent Debate League to reflect the direction of
the league. Student Adam Lamont wins the "new logo competition" by
drawing up the league's new logo.
2015-2016 The Wasatch Independent Debate League adds a "Senior
Novice" division for all first year competitors regardless of age. Tournament
attendance averages approximately 175 students per tournament. The
number of tournaments hosted expands to seven. Tournaments are again
held at Brigham Young University, University of Utah, LDS Business College,
and American Heritage School. WIDL students successfully compete in the
state mock trial competition with WIDL students taking first and second place
in the jr. high division, and second place and semifinalists in the high school
division. In this year Colton Scott begins teaching classes for the Wasatch Independent Debate League. A team coached by Kelly Collette from Boise, Idaho also joins the league.
2016-2017 The Wasatch Independent Debate League adds a new teacher this year as Jared Johnson (a former competitor in the Wasatch Independent Debate League and BYU graduate) begins teaching classes. Average tournament attendance raises considerably to approximately
230 competitors. This is in spite of adding a seventh tournament to the
competitive year. Tournaments are hosted at BYU, the University of Utah,
Weber State University, LDS Business College, and American Heritage School.
In the mock trial season WIDL teams take first and second in the high school
division and second place in the junior high division. The state championship
team competes in the national championship in Connecticut.
2017-2018 A number of important events and changes take place in
2017-2018 for the WIDL. The WIDL Executive Board approves a new debate
event called Presidential Debate which turns out to be a smashing success
with competitors. The debate is moderated with eight competitors in a room
in the style of a presidential debate. Enrollment is very robust for the event in its inaugural year. The WIDL also competes in its first ever tournament hosted by Utah Valley University. Suzanne Christensen from the executive board also takes two official WIDL teams to two Model United Nations Conferences, one hosted at BYU and the other at the University of Utah. At both conferences the WIDL team receives the highest possible ranking (top three in the state), and individual students receive a number of honors. Tournament attendance stays steady at approximately 230 students per tournament, but with a larger concentration of intermediate and elite students the competitive atmosphere continues to mature. In the state mock trial tournament WIDL teams take first in the high school division, second in the high school division, and first in the junior high division, marking the first year that WIDL teams are state champions in both high school and junior high divisions. A number of other teams also advance to the round of 16 and quarterfinals. The high school state championship team competes at the national tournament in Reno, Nevada and places in the top ten in the entire country (9th), placing higher than any previous team from Utah. What a year!
2018-2019 The Wasatch Independent Debate League makes a series of changes which enrich the student experience significantly. First, the league hosts a mock trial camp August 6-8, 2018. Students compete in eight teams winning team and individual awards as they prepare for the upcoming mock trial season. Second, the league hosts its first ever alumni tournament on January 5, 2019. Former students compete in Lincoln Douglas and Oratory and enjoy reconnecting with old friends and applying knowledge gained in their adult lives to debate events. The league also launches the first WIDL Humanitarian Trip on June 22-29, 2019. Thirty four league students and chaperones partner with Cultiva International in Panajachel, Guatemala to work to connect with and improve food security for Mayan populations in rural areas surrounding Panajachel. Finally, Sam Martineau directs several sessions of a WIDL Teachers' Forum in June 2019 in order to cultivate excellent teaching in the homeschooling community.
In addition to new events, the WIDL has an excellent competitive year. The WIDL hosts seven tournaments throughout the year at BYU, the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Weber State University, and Capstone Classical Academy. Attendance at the events continues to range from 200-250 students per tournament. A league team also competes at Model U.N. Conferences at BYU and the University of Utah taking top three and top six designations respectively. Teams from the league also compete in the State Mock Trial competition taking second place in the high school division and first place in the junior high division. As a result of the high school division champion declining to compete in Mock Trial Nationals, the second place high school team (Integritas A) is able to attend. At nationals in Athens, Georgia, Integritas takes seventh place in the nation, a record for the state of Utah two years in a row.
2019-2020 The Wasatch Independent Debate League continues on
with its second annual mock trial camp August 6-8 2019. At the BYU
Model United Conference on November 8, 2020 the WIDL team earns
a number of individual and team awards including a top three team
ranking at the conference. The league holds its second annual alumni
tournament with a number of both alumni of the league as well as
parents of students in the league competing. Tournament attendance
continues to increase with registration per tournament rising to 210-275
students. Tournaments are held at BYU, the University of Utah, Weber
State University, and Canyon Grove Academy. Due to Covid-19
tournaments scheduled for American Heritage School and scheduled
for BYU are moved online. The move to online provides a challenge
for the WIDL team, but the transition is made successfully and even gives rise to a new paperless balloting system. In mock trial teams composed of students from the league once again compete exceptionally well before the state mock trial competition is cut short due to Covid-19. Before that point teams composed of students from the league secure both spots in the junior high division championship and one of the two spots in the high school division championship. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the league humanitarian trip to Guatemala is cancelled as is national mock trial tournament. However, board member Suzanne Christensen as well as teacher Jared Johnson put on a national online mock trial tournament which draws teams to compete from across the country. A team composed of students from the league wins the national online mock trial tournament.
2014 "Hair Tournament."
2014 BYU Fall Classic.
WIDL Official Logo, courtesy of Adam Lamont.
2016 UofU Tournament.