No debate: Mills a champion coach


Professor Jordan Mills confessed that he loves to argue with his wife. Since they are both standout, collegiate debate coaches, the parleys can be epic.

“We never debated against each other in college, but our debate backgrounds make us very efficient debaters,” said Ann Johnson, Mill’s wife. “Some people might think that we argue a lot but I think we just argue better.”

Debate seems to be in the DNA of the Mills clan. He is a third-generation debate coach, a former state high school forensics champion and a stellar debater at SDSU. Mills has guided students at Southwestern College to national championships. Seven-year-old son Zachary also has the bug and travels with his parents to debate tournaments all over the nation.

Like father like son.

Johnson is no slouch, either. She is the debate coach at Long Beach State University and her students have brought home plenty of hardware.

“When I was a kid my dad would take me to tournaments he was coaching,” said Mills. “There was always a different topic and opponent and it became my favorite sport.”

Following closely in his father’s footsteps, Mills won the state championship twice for impromptu speaking during his high school years and continued to win debate tournaments through his college years at SDSU.

He also won his wife’s heart and eventually her hand in marriage. Mills and Johnson still meet during tournaments now while coaching opposing teams.

Once Mills earned his bachelor’s at SDSU he began teaching part-time at the University of Mexico and then Palomar Community College. But SWC’s unique atmosphere lured him, he said.

“SWC has a better feeling than a lot of other community colleges,” said Mills. “It’s more diverse, students are playing guitars in front of the Student Center and it feels like a community. I really like the atmosphere here.”

Since 2001 Mills has approached teaching debate in a humorous way. When students walk in late on the first day of class, he uses his wit to lighten the mood. Mills will lapse into Portuguese and convince the tardy that they are in a foreign language class.

Communications professor Linda Hensley said Mills is very easygoing and interesting to talk to because of his passion for debate.

“Professor Mills is very inspirational because he has so much knowledge about debate,” she said. “His students look to him as a teacher, a mentor and such an intelligent person.”

Kinesiology major Kirk Pierce said Mills always encourages heated debates.

“It was a very good environment and he showed us how to make a debate,” said Pierce. “I remember when he led a debate about passing the marijuana bill and it led into communism. It was funny and just so exaggerated but it made sense.”

Pierce said Mills insists students to learn how to use critical thinking to debate.

Mills coaches the SWC debate team with Professor of Communications Eric Maag. They met in a debate competition at Long Beach State.

“My first impression, he was very noticeable,” said Maag. “He was very vocal and friendly at tournaments and certainly someone who has a lot of fun doing it.”

Mills helps prepare the team’s arguments and does everything with the official forensics team. He chaperones the team during trips all over the United States. So far Mills has helped the team bring home more than 300 trophies against community colleges and universities. Once the SWC team beat Harvard University.

Former debate team member Astrid Ackerman said Mills influenced her to try something new and she joined the team.

“Professor Mills is very passionate about debate and inspired me to improve my debating skills,” she said.

When he’s not teaching, Mills likes to scuba dive in the Caribbean.

Traveling the world is also a hobby for Mills, who accompanies his wife to the Netherlands where she teaches communication classes every summer. Mills said during his vacation he shepherds his son to museums and places for kids to have fun.

While he is away he attends debate conventions in countries such as England, Scotland and the Netherlands.

“He is like a loaded pistol always ready to go,” said Pierce. “Always has something to say. I’ve never seen anyone like him.”


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