Life’s late calling for Lee County teacher of the year

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Michael Coggins didn’t begin teaching until he was 46 years old and 24 years out of college.
But the fourth-year educator’s enthusiasm quickly made a mark, and on Monday, he was named Lee County Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2010.
“I believe that teaching is a calling, and I took the calling late in life,” said Coggins, a special education inclusion teacher at Guntown Middle School. “As my kids got older, it gave me an opportunity to do what I wanted to do. Once your kids grow up and start moving off, this is a great way to have an impact on young people, and I love that.”
After receiving his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Mississippi in 1982, Coggins worked in business for several years, serving as a manager at the Eaton Seating factory in Pontotoc and working as a franchise owner of a HobbyTown USA store.
Then the calling came. He completed alternate route of education courses in 2005 and began teaching special education at Guntown in 2006.
He’s spent his entire teaching career at Guntown, also teaching social studies at the school.
“He is a tremendous team player,” Guntown Principal Steven Havens said.
Coggins loves teaching history, and he earned his master’s degree in Civil War studies from American Military University in 2004. But he has a big passion for special education.
“We want to meet every child’s needs,” Coggins said. “I think God gave me a heart for those kids”.
Coggins also has started a chess club at the middle school, and he regularly comes to campus at 7 a.m. to tutor any students that need assistance.
“I would say that Mr. Coggins exemplifies a whole teacher,” Lee County Special Education Coordinator Angie Cherry said. “He has the best interest of every child on that campus at heart. He is not special education or general education; he is just a teacher.”
Four years after getting his alternate certification, Coggins already has received his educational specialist degree in educational leadership from Liberty University. He is now pursuing his Doctor of Education degree from Liberty University.
He wrote in his Teacher of the Year application that it should be the “first focus of every teacher to help improve the education profession.”
“We need to continually seek to educate ourselves and grow in our knowledge of the art and science of learning,” Coggins wrote.
He wrote on that same application that his philosophy of teaching begins with the concept of his responsibility to serve mankind.
“He’s going to make a great principal one day,” Havens said.