What turns the shyest kid in the class into an award-winning public speaker and coach? For COC Professor and Speech Team Coach Michael Leach it was a Moorpark Community College professor.
During his first year at Moorpark College, Leach’s speech professor had the college’s speech team perform for the class. That one presentation began the shift that is now the focus of his career. “I thought I wanted to be an attorney,” Leach reflected. That was until he discovered his passion for public speaking and teaching others how to be an effective presenter.
While washing windows to support himself, Leach would spend hours mentally perfecting his speeches; an effort that paid off as he earned multiple national gold medals in public address and acting. “There were students on my team that had more talent and experience,” he said. “For me it was hard work and perseverance to attain success.”
From Moorpark College he went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from CSU Northridge and a Master of Arts in communications studies from CSU Los Angeles. After attaining six national titles, including top speaker in America, Leach decided he wanted to do what his coaches had done: create an award-winning team and help students gain skills that will benefit them in all aspects of their lives.
He began teaching adults who were returning to school after years away, many of whom were decades older then he was. It ignited his enthusiasm for teaching. After teaching part-time at several southern California colleges, he joined College of the Canyons’ full-time faculty in 2005 and became the speech team coach. Under his direction the team has received 55 state and national medals. He attributes much of that success to the unique approach he takes to guiding his students. “We focus on the building blocks to not only assembling a great speech, but telling a story,” he said.
In the classroom and on the stage, he endeavors to help students attain the skills they need to land their dream job, negotiate anything, hear their names after “and the winner is…” or simply ask someone out. “Students tell me all the time that they have been able to use the strategies they learned in a speech class or while on our team,” he noted.
Leach understands the power of an instructor that introduces students to new ideas and new opportunities and empowers them to do things that they never imagined doing. For him, that one class taken during his first year in a community college set the stage for a career he loves.