All coaches have extensive debate experience and a love of spreading the joy of debate. We use “coaches” to refer to our instructors and teachers because we want students to view them just like they would their soccer coach or their track coach.

Aaron Vinson

Founder and head coach

Aaron is the head speech and debate coach at New Trier High School in Wilmette, IL where he has coached and taught debate for a decade. His teams have won state championships, national invitationals, college scholarships, and are frequently ranked in the top 25 of the National Debate Coaches Association’s poll. Aaron was a debater at Glenbrook North High School and then at Miami University where he qualified four times to the National Debate Tournament. He lives in Glenview with his wife and three little girls (fun fact: whose initials are A-C-E!).

Azja Butler ACE Debate Coach

Azja Butler


Azja Butler is both a student and debater at the University of Kansas, where she studies Secondary Education. Azja has debated for eight years and has coached for five. She’s had an accomplished debate career in which she’s won several college-level tournaments and numerous speaker awards. She has coached all levels and specializes in various topics/forms of debate. Azja likes to say, “In debate, anything goes!” Currently, she coaches for New Trier and Shawnee Mission South High school. Above all else, Azja values students, their safety, and their experiences. Debate is a powerful thing and has the capacity to help kids see their own potential; as such, being a part of A-C-E is a priority for her because she sees that potential in its mission.

Ashton Smith


Ashton is an Assistant Debate Coach at Maine East High School in Park Ridge, IL, where he also attended high school. In 2016, Ashton represented Maine East at the Tournament of Champions for the first time since 2000. Ashton recently graduated from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy with a B.A. in Public Policy, concentrating in technology policy, and a Minor in Law, Justice, and Social Change. He was a competitive collegiate debater, ultimately earning the American Debate Association’s ‘Varsity Debater of the Year’ Award in 2020. Over the years, Ashton has gained a strong appreciation for debate and dialogue about important policy issues. He taught at the University of Michigan Summer Debate Institute in 2017, 2019, and 2020, where he helped novice and experienced debaters develop their argumentation and research skills. He also taught at the Detroit Urban Debate League Summer Camp in 2020. Beyond debate, Ashton is an experienced public speaker. Fun fact: Ashton was the selected Commencement speaker for both his high school and undergraduate graduation ceremonies.

Meredith Falk


Meredith is a passionate educator who enjoys teaching diverse, engaged students. Currently, she teaches 8th grade Spanish at Carleton W. Washburne School in Winnetka and judges debate tournaments on the weekends. Prior to joining Washburne, Falk earned a Fulbright scholarship to Mexico in 2019 and taught university students in Guadalajara, Jalisco. She is a proud graduate of both New Trier High School and Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy, where she received her degree in Secondary Teaching for Spanish. At New Trier, Meredith competed in local, state and national tournaments in Congressional Debate. She qualified for Nationals her senior year, was the chamber runner-up junior year, and qualified for Catholic Nationals twice. She broke to semi-finals and final rounds at several national tournaments, including Berkeley, Minneapple and Georgetown. Since graduating from high school in 2015, Meredith has continued to judge and coach for New Trier in her free time. She particularly likes judging Congressional and Public Forum Debate and working with novice debaters on their rhetorical and speaking skills. Additionally, Falk is passionate about non-profit work and serves on the New Trier Young Alumni Board, a part of the Education Foundation. Outside of school, she spends her free time with her dogs, Socrates and Bertrand.

Theo Noparstak


Theo Noparstak is currently a policy debate coach at Northwestern University where he’s coached teams to tournament championships and top-3 national rankings. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in political science and set records on the Kentucky policy debate team, graduating with the second-most wins at the National Debate Tournament in school history. He started his debate career at Niles West high school in Skokie, Illinois where he helped start their policy debate program. During his senior year he earned the most bids to the Tournament of Champions in the country and was the #1 ranked debater by the IHSA.

“Don't raise your voice, improve your argument."