Meet our coaches
Elisa C. Sukhobok
Coach Elisa founded Potomac Debate Academy in 2014. She was motivated to spread the joys of competitive debate to students because public speaking and debate bolsters students' critical thinking, logical reasoning, and presentation skills, all of which will serve students well regardless of their future pursuits. Her love and passion for debate started in high school, where she participated in Lincoln Douglas, Policy, and Public Forum competitions. In college, she was a member of the New York University Parliamentary Debate Team and an active participant of the American Parliamentary Debate Association (APDA). In 2010, she had the honor of representing both New York University and the United States in the World Debate Championships, in Antalya, Turkey. Coach Elisa holds a B.A. in Political Science from New York University, a J.D. from University of Virginia School of Law, and a M.S.Ed. from University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. Coach Elisa is also an attorney, specializing in issues affecting higher education. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter and two dogs.
Coach Kirsten joined Potomac Debate as a coach fall 2017. Her debate journey started in high school where she competed for three years in Public Forum, Policy, and Extemp. As a competitor, Coach Kirsten often advanced to out rounds and qualified for multiple national tournaments. Following high school, she went on to compete in college at Gustavus, which was home to a top ten speech program on a speech and debate scholarship. During her first year on the team, she broke at national tournaments and qualified to the National Forensics Association National Tournament in four events. Following her freshman year, she moved to South Dakota to finish her degree and pursue a coaching opportunity, where she coached Public Forum, Policy, and Extemp for three years. During her first year as a coach, two of her students made history as the first team ever from South Dakota to qualify for the Tournament of Champions. During her second year coaching, her teams were in the final policy debate round at the National Speech and Debate Tournament, out rounds at Catholic Nationals, and participated at the Tournament of Champions. Coach Kirsten has a MBA and MPP from the University of Maryland.
Coach Noah joined Potomac Debate as a travel coach spring 2018 and coaches public forum, accompanying students to national circuit competitions including Tournament of Champions. As a debater, Coach Noah competed in Public Forum, Extemporaneous and Original Oratory. He reached late out-rounds at several national tournaments including Harvard, Isidore Newman, NFL Nationals, and qualified to the Tournament of Champions his junior and senior year. Afterwards, he coached for his alma mater and competed on the collegiate circuit in American Parliamentary Debate Association. Coach Noah is a current senior majoring in Political Science & Statistics at The George Washington University.
David is currently a sophomore at Georgetown University. He is majoring in economics and computer science. In high school, David debated for Potomac and found success on the national circuit. His accomplishments include breaking at Georgetown, Penn, and twice at TOC silver division along with placing first at the NSDA Chesapeake qualifier. David is currently doing American Parliamentary in college and is on the Georgetown Parliamentary team. During his freshman year, he placed third at the Hopkins novice tournament, championed at Penn novice, and achieved a top 16 finish at the American University Pro-ams. This is David's second year coaching at Potomac. Teams he has coached have broke and reached late out-rounds at GMU, Georgetown, Capitol Beltway, Durham, and Lakelands. The teams he has coached have also qualified for the TOC.
Coach Ethan is currently a junior at The University of Maryland at College Park, majoring in Finance and Accounting. Throughout high school, Ethan was on the Potomac Debate team, serving as the Captain his senior year. During his captainship, Ethan not only qualified for Silver TOC but helped mentor numerous JV and novice teammates who went onto do the same. As a college debater, he currently debates for the Maryland Parliamentary Debate Team and has placed nationally as a varsity speaker within the American Parliamentary Debate Association. As a PF coach, he has mentored teams that have reached deep elimination rounds on the national circuit and have went on to qualify for NSDA Nationals and Tournament of Champions.
Coach Paulina is currently a sophomore at Georgetown University studying international politics. In high school, Paulina debated in Lincoln-Douglas before joining Potomac's Public Forum team. She was Co-President of the National Cathedral School Debate Team for two years. Her accomplishments include breaking at Georgetown and GMU Patriot Invitational. She also placed first at DCUDL twice and the Club Debate League Championships. As a coach, she brings passion and energy into the classroom. She has coached top-ranking novice, JV, and varsity middle school and high school students to excel at the highest levels of competitive debate, including winning bid rounds on the national circuit.
Send us a message
"For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, and debate."
Meet our travel coaches
Coach Brian is currently a freshman at Georgetown University, studying International Political Economy. He debated for Millburn High School for four years, serving as head captain his senior year. He earned 14 bids to the Tournament of Champions, qualifying his sophomore, junior, and senior years. He reached TOC semifinals his junior year, and was ranked as the #1 Public Forum team in the nation. He championed Yale, Princeton, UPenn, Berkeley, Scarsdale, and the New Jersey State Championship, finaled at Glenbrooks, and earned semifinal finishes at Bronx, Blake, and Wake Forest. Brian was a top 5 speaker at Bronx, Glenbrooks, Blake, Princeton, and UPenn, and was top speaker at Bronx, Princeton, Harvard, and NJ States. Since graduating, he has coached teams to late elimination rounds at Grapevine, Yale, Bronx, Georgetown, GMU, Lexington, and Emory.
Evans is currently a student at Carnegie Mellon University, majoring in Statistics and Machine Learning. Throughout high school, Evans was active on both his high school’s debate team, as well as the Potomac Debate team, serving as Captain for the former during his senior year. His accomplishments include qualifying for TOC Silver, breaking at every regional tournament he attended, as well as placing as Co-champions with his Potomac teammates at UVA’s Cavalier Clash. Evans has also been coaching debate for over six years. Starting off as an assistant coach in high school, he eventually became a full-fledged coach and even the head coach of Potomac’s Summer Debate Camp. Evans has taught numerous classes and has personally coached over 100 students, many of whom have gone on to bid for TOC and clear to elimination rounds on the national circuit.
Coach Gaurav is a sophomore at Georgetown University where he plans to double major in Finance and Operations and Information Management. He competed in Public Forum at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Massachusetts and served as team captain for two years. Gaurav was the first debater from his school to qualify to and break to elimination rounds at the Tournament of Champions and amassed a total of six bids throughout his career. Some of his notable accomplishments included reaching semifinals at the Columbia Invitational and quarterfinals at the Yale and New York City Invitationals. He also reached the finals of both the Harvard and Blake Round Robins and was ranked as high as 3rd in the nation. Students Gaurav previously coached have won a number of tournaments including the Princeton Invitational, the Georgetown Invitational, and the Massachusetts State Championship. Having taught debate to students from a variety of age ranges and skill levels, Gaurav strives to make the activity as accessible and enjoyable as possible!
Coach James is currently a sophomore at the University of Chicago, where he studies economics and political science. James debated for five years, where he achieved great success in national competition. He championed the Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, and UPenn tournaments. By the end of his career, he was the #1 Ranked debater in the nation. James was also the president of his 150-member debate team, and he led his younger teammates to victories at the novice state tournament 3 years in a row. As a coach, James has mentored teams to win the Princeton tournament and break at various national circuit tournaments.
Coach Ilana is currently on a gap year in which she is coaching debate, helping out with a presidential campaign, and working with organizations that help climate refugees. In high school she debated in Public Forum for The Dalton School for three years. She qualified to the Tournament of Champions in the gold division her junior and senior year, reaching outrounds her senior year. She placed 15th at NSDA Nationals her senior year and reached elimination rounds at many national circuit tournaments, including the New York Invitational, Princeton, Harvard, Ridge, and many others. She received many speaker awards including third speaker at Princeton, Ridge, and Villiger, and top speaker at the Byram Hills Invitational and the Westridge Round Robin. She has coached at many institutions: the National Debate Forum, the National Symposium for Debate, the Victory Briefs Institute, the Public Forum division of the University of Texas Debate camp, and the Beyond Resolved debate camp.
Coach Jon is currently a freshman at The University of Maryland at College Park, where he plans to double major in Economics and Computer Science. In high school, Jon competed as a Public Forum Debater for four years, serving as his team’s captain during his junior and senior year. Throughout his career, Jon reached late elimination rounds at national tournaments such as Harvard, Princeton, and Big Lex. In his senior year, Jon achieved 3rd place at the NCFL Grand National Tournament and championed the Massachusetts State Tournament. Students that Jon has taught have gone on to great success, with their accomplishments ranging from finaling at the MA Novice State Tournament to qualifying for the Tournament of Champions.
Coach Kelly is a first year at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. If she can ever make up her mind on what she wants to study, she'll have a major. In high school, Kelly competed in Public Forum Debate for four years and International Extemporaneous Speaking (IX) for three years. In Public Forum, Kelly reached late elimination rounds at tournaments such as the University of the Pacific, Santa Clara University, and the UC Berkeley Invitational. Notably, she semifinaled and won first place speaker at the Berkeley Invitational and championed the SCU Invitational. In IX, she was the California state champion and placed in the Top 30 IX competitors in the nation two years in a row. Since graduating, Kelly has coached at the National Debate Forum and National Symposium for Debate. Her students have reached late outrounds at numerous national tournaments and qualified to the TOC.
Coach Mai is a junior at Florida State University who debates on its Parliamentary Debate team. In high school, Mai debated in Public Forum for Boca Raton Community High School and achieved late outrounds at the Sunvitational as well as winning prelim finishes at Harvard, Emory, and Yale. As a coach, Mai has coached two teams to be the first debaters in their programs to ever qualify to the Tournament of Champions, as well as a top 20 finish at the 2018 NSDA National Tournament. In college parliamentary debate, Mai has won almost every tournament he competed at in Florida throughout the 2018-2019 season, with a semifinal finish at the State Championships.
Coach Matthew is a graduate of Duke University and will be attending law school in the fall of 2020. As a coach, he has helped teams in Public Forum to champion tournaments like Bronx Science and Emory; place second at the NSDA National Tournament; and semi-final at Harvard and Stanford. As a competitor, Coach Matthew competed in Public Forum, Extemporaneous Speaking, Lincoln-Douglas, and Congress, placing sixth at the NSDA National Tournament in Public Forum and second at the TFA State Tournament in International Extemporaneous Speaking.
Coach Ryan is a freshman at Princeton University. He founded the Public Forum program at Corona del Sol High School in Arizona, where he competed for four years. During his two years competing on the national circuit, he acquired 8 bids to the Tournament of Champions, qualifying both his junior and senior year, and Ryan was ranked as high as 2nd in the country his senior year. Most notably, Ryan championed the Bronx Science Invitational, the Golden Desert Invitational, and the Millard North and Presentation Voices Round Robins. He also final’d at both the Barkley Forum at Emory and at the Arizona State University Invitational, and reached late out-rounds at NSDA Nationals, Glenbrooks, Harvard, and Yale. Individually, he received multiple speaker awards, including 3rd at Yale, 2nd at Glenbrooks, 2nd at the Ivy Street Round Robin, 3rd at the Harvard Round Robin, and 19th at the Tournament of Champions. As the founder of the Public Forum program at his school, Ryan coached his novices to success in both novice and varsity. His novices have championed the Novice PF division of the ASU Invitational, reached semi-finals in the varsity division of the Arizona State Championship, and acquired a bid at SWSDIT to the Tournament of Champions.
Coach Sarah is senior at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations School where she studies Public Policy, Business and Applied Economics. She debated Public Forum at Millburn High School in New Jersey for four years where she taught the middle school debate program. Throughout her career, Sarah broke to elimination rounds at eighteen national tournaments, amassed seven bids to the Tournament of Champions, and was ranked as high as 11th in the nation. She also won numerous speaker awards including second speaker at the UPenn Liberty Bell Classic and fourth speaker at the Valley Mid-America Cup. Since graduating, Sarah has coached at the Institute for Speech and Debate, Champion Briefs Institute, and Victory Briefs Institute. She also coached numerous teams to impressive finishes, including the champion of the Harvard Invitational. Sarah is passionate about increasing access to debate and has started a debate league in Kenya with 15 schools and growing. She has also worked at the Department of Justice and is currently studying in DC where she’ll work at the Council of Economic Advisers if the government ever reopens.
Coach Thomas is a freshman at Rice University in Houston Texas. He debated at the Blake School in Minneapolis. Throughout his career, he broke at national tournaments including UK, Bronx, Glenbrooks, and Apple Valley. He also performed well at the state level, placing second his junior year and reaching quarterfinals his senior year. He also performed well in championship season, reaching quarterfinals at NDCA his junior year, and closing it out his senior year, placing 11th at NSDA his junior year and 9th his senior year, and breaking at TOC his junior year and was the Champion his senior year. He is working at NDF Boston and the Intensive the summer of 2019.
Meet our team captains
Kimberly Liu, Richard Montgomery HS, 2020
Vinay Durbhakula, Winston Churchill HS, 2020
Kevin Zeng, Thomas S. Wootton HS, 2020