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Lisa Coates
2010 Alumni Classroom Fellow
Ashland, VA


Photo of Lisa Coates, Classroom Fellow

Bio/Overview: For several years, Coates has had the privilege of teaching at Liberty Middle School where she leads S.O.A.R Academy (Success, Opportunity, Achievement and Responsibility), Hanover County’s Therapeutic Day Treatment Program. Growing up with two younger siblings of exceptional needs inspired Coates with the dedication, pride, and passion she has for education. As a young girl, their educational struggles emotionally and personally impressed Coates to pursue a career in special education. As a first generation college student, educators have been the most significant influence for Coates both personally and professionally. Having been educated through the public education system; she understands the role of public education in a democracy and the need to improve the academic quality. Coates’ first teaching experience provided her with the opportunity to interact with the urban district of Paterson, New Jersey on projects and programs to enhance the quality of life for students and their families. On September 11, 2001, as a novice teacher, Coates witnessed the tragic events of the day unfold from my classroom window. She recalls how my students turned to me for comfort and safety on this day filled with uncertainty. This extraordinary event helped shape Coates into the educational leader she is today and made her become a true believer that the classroom should be one of the safest places for all children.

Educational Values/Philosophy: Having been trained and worked in underachieving urban school districts has influenced Coates’s interest and deep connection for working with at-risk youth. She constantly returns to the words of Eleanor Roosevelt that "Universal rights begin in small places, close to home, in the neighborhoods we live in, the school we attend, the places we work. Unless they have meaning here, they have little meaning anywhere" for inspiration as an educational leader knowing that we all play an integral part in the education of a child.

Achievements: The 2010-2011 school year was an especially exciting time in Coates’s career, as she was named the Teacher of the Year for her school, as well as the Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST) Teacher of the Year for outstanding science teaching to at-risk students.

Leadership Experience: During the 2010-2011 school year, Coates was selected to take the role of Lead Teacher of Hanover County’s Therapeutic Day Treatment Program for students with social/emotional disabilities, a program she facilitates with the Hanover County Community Services Board. The goal of S.O.A.R Academy (Success, Opportunity, Achievement and Responsibility) is to facilitate improvements in students’ behavior and emotional stability, and education success in the least restrictive environment within the county school system. She also serves as a mentor teacher to staff that are new to the profession, host student teachers, tutor, mentor to at-risk youth and participate on a variety of committees.

Affiliations: Council for Exceptional Children

Education: Coates graduated from William Paterson University in 2002 and received her Bachelor degree in Special Education. She went on to complete a Master degree in Curriculum and Instruction, and is currently completing coursework toward a PhD in Educational Leadership.

Areas of Interest/Expertise:

  • Special Education, particularly for behavioral and emotional disabilities
  • Disability programming for middle schools students
  • Working with at-risk youth
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Last Modified: 08/16/2012