Ivanna Fritz, an English teacher at Glacier High School in Kalispell and a graduate of Fairview High School back in 1989, was recently elected into the Montana Coaches Hall of Fame for her work with students in speech and debate.
“It’s a unique opportunity that was never really on my radar,” Fritz said. “I didn’t know that it was going to be a goal for me and then as I kept with it, after 20 years of coaching, it’s the highest honor you can get, which is pretty awesome.”
Fritz graduated from St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she received her degrees in communications and secondary education. She began her coaching career in Minnesota in 1992 but moved back to her home state of Montana to continue her coaching and teaching career in 1996.
“In Minnesota, they required you to volunteer to be a coach with a communications degree,” Fritz said. “Fairview at the time didn’t have speech and debate, so I volunteered in Minnesota and then when I moved to Kalispell, where my husband grew up, I started coaching at Flathead High School.”
With her background in teaching, the coaching ability came naturally to her and she feels it has paid big dividends in her career.
“At the end of the day, it’s the kids,” Fritz said. “You learn all the time; I always say coaching makes me a better teacher because you end the day with kids who want to be there and learn to talk and discuss issues. You’re always seeking knowledge and that competitive edge is one of those things that you’re just always seeking for information.”
Fritz admitted that narrowing down highlights in her career as a teacher and coach is difficult, but she had a few that came to mind.
“Having the students win Nationals and one taking second place was a pretty big highlight,” she said. “But one of the highlights for me was having my children in speech and debate. I became a completely different coach when I saw it from a parent’s perspective. Neither of my kids participated in the events I was ever in, so that gave me a very different perspective as they both did the speech side and I did debate. At any given time, we had about six events that we were prepping for in our house.”
All in all, Fritz has much to be proud of and her stepdad, Wes Erickson, couldn’t agree more.
“She would put and still puts her life on the line for her students, literally,” he said. “She doesn’t treat anyone differently and I think her election into the Hall of Fame is an acclamation of what she has done for her students.”