Pioneer Power

Lisa Coates ’02

On September 11, 200, Lisa Coates ’02 was a student teacher in a special education class in Paterson School #2; she was the World Trade Center towers burning from her window. “The children turned to me for comfort,” she says. “That experience led me to the belief that the classroom should be the safest place for children.”

Now a classroom veteran, Coates currently teaches a special education class in Liberty Middle School in the Hanover County Public School District in Virginia. She was recently named 2010 Teacher of the Year by the county, a peer-nominated award, as well as Teacher of the Year by the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) for outstanding teaching for at-risk youth. In addition, Coates is one of just fifteen teachers from around the country selected as 2010-11 U.S. Department of Education Teaching Ambassador Fellows, selected to support reform in states and communities.

Coates is also lead teacher of the SOAR Academy, a middle school special education program at Liberty Middle School. Coates supervises eight students in her classroom, and in addition to being their teacher, she acts as their case manager, and talks to parents, coordinates testing, and develops their individual education plans.

Two younger brothers who have exceptional needs inspired her interest in special education. “Growing up, I saw their struggles,” she remembers. “Their needs inspired me with the dedication, pride, and passion I have for education.”