Todd Schnake awarded Outstanding Theatre Educator of the Year Award by national association

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) has honored Todd Schnake with the Outstanding Theatre Educator of the Year Award for 2023. He was one of six educators across the country who were selected for this award.

The award was presented to Schnake at the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA), State Speech, Debate, & Theatre Championships on April 22 at Missouri State University.

In selecting Schnake, the NFHS noted his 31 years of work in the Ray-Pec School District while directing state champion productions, teaching speech/debate and theatre, and earning countless awards for his dedicated service to the Missouri performing arts community. Link to NFHS story

Read more about Schnake’s career at Ray-Pec, as described by Activities Director Dr. Kristina Martin::

The Raymore-Peculiar School District hired Schnake as a middle school theater teacher in 1991, giving everyone in the district a front row seat to his flourishing career spanning the past three decades. When Todd joined the high school staff as a teacher in 1993, he also accepted the role of coaching the debate and forensics teams, as well as directing the school’s many plays and performances. He stepped down as the debate coach after five years of service to

concentrate on forensics and play direction. 

Over his career, he has received numerous personal accolades, including being named the 2021 Ray-Pec Teacher of the Year after being a finalist three times in previous years. Over 90 letters were submitted to nominate Todd for the award in 2021. 

Schnake was also named:

  • National Federation of High Schools Missouri State Teacher of the Year for Speech, Debate, and Theatre during the 2014-15 school year

  • Speech & Theater Association of Missouri Outstanding Theatre Teacher for the 2006-07 school year; and the 

  • Missouri State Thespian Theatre Teacher of the Year in 2005. 

He is a National Speech & Debate Association Three- Diamond Coach.

However, knowing the passion that Schnake has for teaching, he would much rather focus on the success of his students.

Leading champions is an art form Schnake has developed as evidenced by his nine (as of April 2023) MSHSAA Missouri State Champion Readers Theater pieces and five MSHSAA State Championships in the One-Act Play.

He has coached more MSHSAA State Champions at the Theatre, Speech, and Debate tournament than any other coach in the history of the competition, dating as far back as 1952—that’s an incredible feat. He has coached 20 State Champions in seven

different categories. Schnake is able to demonstrate his skill as a director, coach, and thespian over a broad range of performance categories making him one of the most well-rounded professionals in the business. 

Schnake has directed four musical productions that have received the Blue Star Outstanding Overall Musical award from Starlight Theatre, and has a 14-year streak of having a production as one of the finalists. Both are more than any other school in the greater Kansas City metro area. In addition, he has directed five productions selected to perform on the main stage at the International Thespian Festival, where only 12 are selected nationwide each year.

Even more to the strength of Schnake’s leadership is the collective group of students that he has led to National performances. He has had one NSDA Top 20 speech team, three teams in the top 40, two National Champions, a National Finalist and five National Semi-finalists. Nationally, over his career, Schnake has led 76 National Qualifiers in the 10 categories of Duo Interpretation, Dramatic Interpretation, Humorous Interpretation, Oratory, Program Oral Interpretation, Informative Speaking, International Extemporaneous Speaking, Student Congress, Policy Debate, and the Lincoln-Douglas Debate.

Schnake has been active at the local, state, regional, and national levels as a coach and mentor to thousands of students throughout the years, but he is also a mentor to his peers. He has been a member of the Speech & Theatre Association of Missouri since 1996, presenting workshops regularly throughout the years as well as being a multi-year member on the Board of Governors for both the Speech & Theatre Association of Missouri and the Missouri State Thespians. Nationally, he has given his time as a National Tournament Staff member since 2017 to the National Speech & Debate Association.

When Schnake was a finalist for Ray-Pec Teacher of the Year, he told why he became a teacher:

“I grew up on a farm outside a very small town. The year I graduated, my high school had only 42 students enrolled in grades 9-12, and there were only 10 in my graduating class. Yes, during my years in the Chilhowee School District, I was fortunate enough to have a few teachers who helped me see the possibilities the outside world present, and inspired me to seek ways to make my mark. Initially when I went to college, I was considering a career in theatrical performance. Then, as part of a class requirement, I was assigned to direct a one-act play. As I worked on the project, I realized how much more enjoyable it was to not only work on the play, but to help someone else discover the best within themselves. Good theatre is good theatre, whether it's done by professional actors or by high school students. I then knew that teaching was what I was called to do. I could help young people find their potential as my teachers had done for me, and I could do it within a discipline that I love. Teaching isn't what I do, it's who I am. I hope that I can impact my students the way I was impacted by so many educators along the way.”