The Comeback: Theo Noparstak

By Nadia Firozabadi, Staff Writer

A graduate of the class of 2014, alum Theo Noparstak is still a contributing member at Niles West after graduating from the University of Kentucky last spring. Noparstak was a prominent member of the community here being one of the top debaters in the country and receiving many bids to the Tournament of Champions. Noparstak received a significant scholarship to attend the University of Kentucky as a result of his success competing against the top debate teams in the country.

Noparstak recalls his experience at Niles West as hectic.

“Going to around 20 debate tournaments my junior and senior year, on top of my classes and social life, kept me busy,” Noparstak said. “But I made a lot of life-long connections with friends and teachers.”

After competitively debating at the University of Kentucky for four years and placing in the most prestigious debate tournament there is — the National Debate Tournament — Noparstak is now back at Niles West as a social studies teacher and coaching debaters on the Niles West Debate Team.

Noparstak now helps run the Niles West Debate Team by teaching novices, coaching older debaters, and producing evidence for the team.

“Mr. Oddo and loyalty to the debate program were the biggest reasons I came back to coach debate,” Noparstak said. “He was the reason why I stuck with debate and ultimately earned a scholarship to college. As an alumni of a relatively new program, I want to see many more generations of debaters come through Niles West.”

Senior Dylan Chikko is one of the many students who has benefitted from Noparstak’s coaching and expertise.

“Having Theo as a coach has really helped me a lot. All of our coaches are really talented but it is also helpful to have coaches who went to Niles West pretty recently, like Theo and Lizzie, because their experiences as debaters were almost identical to the ones we have now, which makes it very helpful to have them.” Chikko said.

Chikko also looks up to Noparstak as a role model as he plans to potentially come back after he graduates college to give back to the team as well.

“I definitely would like to coach after college too,” Chikko said. “I plan on having a career in education anyway so it makes sense to come back and help my own school. I also owe a lot of my personal growth to Niles West Debate and would love to see what I can do to help it in the future, just like how it helped me.”

Not only is Noparstak’s return benefitting the students, but it also helps head coach and debate teacher, Eric Oddo, run the team.

“I need support after school. By having him after school, I am able to bounce between JV/Varsity practice and Novice practice,” Oddo said. “I can rely on him to supervise the kids while teaching the JV/Varsity advanced strategic concepts in policy debate. He is the best at teaching debate strategies and concepts which a lot of students find difficult to grasp. He has a wonderful way of explaining them to high school students.”

Noparstak’s engaging personality, determined work ethic, and funny stories are just some of the things that make his presence on the team significant and proactive.

“I love having Theo back with the team. He started the program with me,” Oddo said. “He knows all of the trials and tribulations we have been through. Our program was not just successful from the start. It took a lot of sacrifice from all stakeholders (parents, students, coaches, etc.) at the beginning to establish a team that could compete with schools like Glenbrook South, Glenbrook North, and New Trier. Having him there to explain that history to the students is great. I also love seeing him teach. He is a good teacher for such a young guy.”

Noparstak does spend a lot of his time after school in the debate wing teaching, coaching, and judging practice rounds, but he also is now a full-time teacher. Noparstak teaches Modern World History and Sociology most of the school day and finishes off his day in the debate classroom.

“It’s fascinating being a teacher in the same building where I once was a student. Sometimes I daze out while walking through the hallways and have flashbacks to when I was a student,” Noparstak said. “Seeing places where I used to hang out with friends in the hallways, and watching a new generation of students walk the same path I did, really hammers home the concept of developing a community.”

He also shares how much he appreciates teaching and loves his new job as a full-time teacher.

“The students are awesome. I’m honored to teach such bright, energetic kids. It’s a privilege to be able to share my knowledge of and passion about history with these classes.” Noparstak said.

The past and future of Niles West debate are influenced by the passion and work Noparstak has put into debate and teaching. He plans on continuing his coaching and teaching as of now, but, is unclear of his post-graduate life. This alumni of Niles West is going nowhere but up while keeping Niles West right by his side.