Improving students’ reading performances takes special effort for veteran educator

Published 12:12 am Wednesday, July 26, 2023

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Donna Cole’s journey to the classroom started later in her life.

She spent time as a bus driver and was able to stay home with her children while they were young.

When her oldest went to high school, Cole went back to school.

At that point she had an accounting degree, so she finished school and began teaching in West Orange in 2005.

She started in a behavior unit, then moved on to kindergarten then second grades.

Eventually, she moved on to the Port Neches-Groves Independent School District.

Major impact

Today, Cole celebrates the small things.

As a reading interventionist, she works with students who are struggling readers.

What keeps her coming back year after year is the students.

She sees students’ growths differently than a regular classroom teacher.

For her, it’s the little things.

“Not even necessarily their academics, but their person, you know, what you’re going to need all those things,” Cole said. “You’re not only going to need the academic side, you’re going need the person side. You’re going to need the empathy side. You’re going to need all those things to truly be, what I’d say, is a good human being, a successful human being. That’s the greatest gift to me.”

On Tuesday, Cole was named Teacher of the Month sponsored by Philpott Motors, a title that comes with a $500 gift card.

Staci Gary, director of district programs and 9-12 education at PNGISD, has known Cole for many years.

Gary served as principal at Taft elementary when Cole worked there.

Cole is now moving to Groves Primary School for the 2023-24 school year.

“She is one of the hardest working individuals I know. She is a friend to everyone,” Gary said.

Cole’s skill at teaching stands out.

“She can grow a student academically by leaps and bounds and will go to the ends of the earth to help a student,” Gary said.

Cole is one of those teachers who puts in more than required and has been known to be at campus before the sun rose and after the sunset, Gary said.

Groves Primary School, which opens its doors to students next month, includes prekindergarten to second grades.

Gary and a few others in the district lured Cole to the administration building this week for a lunch date, then brought her to a side room for the surprise announcement.

Already seated in the room were husband Stephen Cole, son Keestan Cole and wife Jennifer and grandchildren Olivia Cole and Maverick Cole.

“She really puts her heart into teaching,” Stephen Cole said.

With all eyes on her, Cole expressed her thoughts at being named Teacher of the Month.

“Appreciation,” Cole said. “Happiness that people think I make children happy. That’s the No. 1 thing, make them happy and make them feel good about themselves.”

— Written by Mary Meaux