Tyler Unsell

Tyler Unsell

January 28, 2020

Tyler Unsell (2019)

Tyler Unsell is the Director of Debate and Forensics at Park Hill High School. During his fourteen years at Park Hill, his students have won numerous awards including multiple state championships and national awards. He also serves as the Editor-in-Chief at Signal Horizon, a magazine dedicated to enjoying horror and science fiction in and out of the classroom. He is also the director of “Monsters Saved Us: How We Can Teach Critical Thinking Through Horror Movies,” which is a class offered at Jospeh Baldwin Academy. He married a Spanish teacher who is way cooler than he is and has two children that are also cooler than he is.  Sometimes it just works out.

What year did you graduate and what was your concentration?

I graduated in 2003 with a degree in Communication.

What extra-/co-curricular activities did you do?

I was involved with Speech and Debate, REALLY involved.

Tyler and his cool, Spanish-teaching wife (2018).

Did you go to grad school? If so, where?  Was it immediately after you left Truman or did you wait?  Why?

I did.  I went on to get my Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction and I am currently working on my EDS in Literacy Studies.

What was your first job after graduation?

Immediately after graduation I went to Pittsburg State where I obtained my teaching certification and spent one year as the Director of Debate at Ruskin High School.

What work do you do/What are you doing now?

I am currently in my 14 year as the Director of Debate and Forensics at Park Hill High School. I also serve as Editor-in-Chief at Signal Horizon Magazine.

Tyler (back, far right) with some of the Park Hill speech and Debate team (2017).

How has your Liberal Arts/COMM education helped you?

Being able to reach every child is critical to what I do everyday. A liberal arts education helped me better understand the unique challenges each student has. Critical thinking is more important than ever in and out of the classroom. Outside of the classroom Signal Horizon is helping elevate the discussion around genre fiction on the page, big screen, and small screen.  Truman taught me that any level of discourse is important.

Tyler and his family on the Plaza in KC (2018).

Which class did you dislike at the time you took it, but now you’re grateful you took it?

Statistics. It was rough. Hard. But, I have really used what I learned in it. Truthfully, I enjoyed all of my COMM classes. Even yours Dr. Self  :).  (Editor’s note: We are blushing.)

What was your greatest accomplishment at Truman State University?

While at Truman State University, the team won the National Championship in Parliamentary Debate.  It was super rad to be a part of that.


Why is Truman a good place for a student to study?

Truman challenged me in ways I had never been challenged before. Truman also gave me permission perhaps for the first time in my life to be smart. Being around other like minded students was so important and one of the highlights as well.

What would you say a COMM student should absolutely do while at Truman?

Grab a drink at the Dukum and catch a show at the planetarium. It wasn’t opened while I was there, but I have gone back to teach in the summer and it is AWESOME.

Tyler winning an award from the NFL (National Forensic League, 2019)

What advice would you give someone who wants to go into the same line of work as you?

Teaching is a calling and is often very rewarding. It must be something you really want to do, otherwise you will burn out quick. When it comes to starting or running a media company you should just do it. Don’t wait. You learn way more by doing it then by waiting around trying to figure it out.

What do you miss most about campus/Kirksville?

The dingy, creepy basement in Kirk Memorial. (Editor’s note: That has since been renovated.)


If you would like to learn more of Tyler’s story, you can follow him on Twitter.  You can also check out Signal Horizon Magazine on Facebook and Twitter as well.


If you want to learn more about the Department of Communication, contact us!