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Davis Journal

Debate coach did more than teach – she changed lives

Jul 28, 2023 09:17AM ● By Becky Ginos
Betty Brand was the debate coach at Davis High School 50 years ago. The students who were on her teams called her “inspiring.” Courtesy Photo

Betty Brand was the debate coach at Davis High School 50 years ago. The students who were on her teams called her “inspiring.” Courtesy Photo

FRUIT HEIGHTS—Positive, encouraging, inspiring – those are all words that others have used to describe Betty Brand, who was the Davis High School debate coach 50 years ago. The 90-year-old made such an impact on her students that those debaters are coming together next week to honor her with a birthday party and reunion.

“I was in debate with her,” said her son Bruce Brand. “My mom was my teacher but she was very popular so she helped my social standing.”

Mom changed lives, he said. “That was a common thread. That’s what happened when mom worked with me.”

Now in a care center, Betty is still making a difference, Bruce said. ‘She talks to all of the caregivers and they’ll just beam. If they say they want to be a nurse, she encourages them to become one. She says ‘you can do that.’ In fact, the care center has told me that people are spending too much time with my mother.”

After helping her husband through school, Betty went back herself and graduated from Weber State University in 1970 at the age of 36 and started teaching at 37. “She was a student teacher at a school in Ogden then came to DHS in 1971,” said Bruce. “She taught English at first, then got permission to start a debate program.”

At 90, Betty Brand still encourages others and brightens their days. Courtesy photo

“I believe you can touch kids’ lives,” said Betty. “I started out with three debate students at Davis High to build a debate program.” 

The first day there wasn’t even a window in the class, she said. “There wasn’t a book there wasn’t a thing. So I had that one class that first year and I bent over backwards to make it just as creative and fun as I could. So then the next spring I took them down to Kaysville Junior High and they gave demonstrations in front of the English classes of some of the fun things we did.”

Betty said that summer the DHS principal called her in and said, “You’re signed up for the entire day for beginning speech classes. What on earth did you do? And I said, ‘sold my program.’”

“I was in Betty’s debate program,” said Julie Olson, one of her students who still keeps in touch. “For me what stands out is that she fosters relationships. We get together two or three times a year.”

Betty garnered so much enthusiasm, said Olson. “It was a fun program. We took state all the years that I was in debate. She’s tremendous and inspiring.”

After her son died in an accident on his mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Betty took a different direction.

“I would struggle all week long getting through school where I encountered Mark in the halls every day in my memory,” said Betty. “I decided the best thing I had to do was get out of debate because everything reminded me of Mark who I had in debate for three years.”

So she took a sabbatical leave for the next year and went back to the University of Utah and got a master’s degree in counseling in 1980 then took a counseling job at Mountain High. “I fell in love with teaching these super bright kids who struggled with traditional education.”

She eventually became principal of Mountain High and the Young Parents School. “Betty could look on the inside and see the potential of the students,” said Olson.

In the late 1990s after she had retired, Betty filled an assignment from the church to help young girls at the Farmington Jail. “She helped the girls to see that they absolutely could do better,” said Bruce. “She loved it.”

Her philosophy is being more of a cheerleader, he said. “She celebrates others and tells them they are awesome and doing a great job. She is so positive and always looks on the bright side.”

The birthday party and reunion will be held Aug. 3 from 6-8 p.m. at Barnes Park Pavilion 1 in Kaysville.

"Betty has the gift of seeing potential in people that they don’t see themselves,” said Olson.  “She encouraged each of us to develop that potential."

The party to honor Betty’s 90th birthday is a joint effort among a group of students who have remained friends across many, many years, she said. “She gave us much in our high school years, fostered the continued friendships so how could we not get together to honor her on this important birthday?”