The Ori Learning Leadership Spotlight Series is dedicated to showcasing outstanding educational leaders who are making a positive impact in their respective districts and the education world.
Dr. Gwendolyn Coffey currently serves as the Assistant Superintendent for Special Education in Katy ISD, Texas.
Education has been her focus for nearly 25 years across a variety of levels, positions, and districts in the Lone Star State. She has served as a general and special education teacher, a counselor, and administrator at both the secondary and elementary levels, and as an instructor for adults at the collegiate level.
Dr. Coffey’s responsibilities as a special education department leader for a large school district include equipping campus staff with research-based knowledge and resources and aligning and implementing practices that ensure the efficient operation of more than 500 employees, multiple budget streams, and district-wide educational resources, all in service of students with disabilities.
In our interview, Dr Coffey discusses the role of mentorship in her journey to becoming an educational leader; the power of pivoting when faced with challenges; and the importance of educational equity.
How did you become an educational leader?
I began my career in education in 1997 as a general and special education teacher in elementary and secondary schools. The idea of becoming an educational leader wasn’t initially on my horizon, and it wasn’t until a mentor recognized leadership potential within me that my trajectory took a turn. They saw something unique in my approach and capabilities and encouraged me to consider having a broader impact within the education system.
Despite my initial reservations, their belief in my ability to make a difference ignited a shift in my career aspirations. Supported and mentored by this influential figure, I transitioned into educational leadership. My journey from classroom educator to educational leader underscores the transformative power of mentorship: the belief and support of that mentor became a catalyst for my growth as a leader within the educational landscape.