Why Teachers Matter – Times Two: A Tribute to Trudie Coe

By Tacy Ashby, EdD
Senior Vice President of Strategic Educational Alliances

teacher and student smiling

She impacted my life – two times. One time on my decision to enter my profession and one time on my decision to exit my profession. I will forever be grateful for her presence in my life – both times.


Trudie Coe was my fourth grade teacher. It was her first year as a teacher and she had high expectations for her students. My mother, as a stay-at-home mom, frequently volunteered in the classroom and offered encouragement, assistance and support to Mrs. Coe. Mom told me when I was older that parents in her class said that she was much too hard because of her high expectations. I do remember having a great deal of homework as a 9-year-old, but I also remember very much wanting to please her. She was so energetic, enthusiastic and actually made me fall in love with learning.

This was especially true through the opportunity she gave all of us to earn extra points in social studies by learning about Arizona in whatever manner we chose. I chose to write reports about the monuments and towns around the state, draw pictures about Arizona’s animals and my all-time favorite – travel throughout Arizona almost every weekend with my family collecting pictures and artifacts.

Through the magic of having choice in learning, accumulating “bonus points,” receiving encouraging and inspiring words from an enthusiastic teacher and being prompted to incredible travel opportunities with my family, I decided I wanted to do what Mrs. Coe did – help others fall in love with learning. As a 9-year-old in fourth grade, I decided I wanted to become a teacher and I actually began my teacher’s files.


Forty-five years later, I had been blessed with many teachers with high expectations like Mrs. Coe who propelled me to soar through a fabulous and fulfilling profession in public education as a teacher, principal, district superintendent and Arizona Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The final 10 years of my professional career in public education, although professionally rewarding, had been personally extremely difficult. I had not grieved nor healed from a series of personal losses, most significant amongst them being a miscarriage immediately followed by my mother’s passing. The constant swirl of “busyness” without addressing matters of the heart was beginning to take its toll.

Two timely gifts prompted an opportunity to begin a much-needed healing from loss and step into a new personal and professional season – the arrival of early retirement from the Arizona State Retirement System and my oldest daughter’s announcement of our first grandchild.  During the last week of my superintendency, having not heard from her for years, I received an email from the special teacher who had launched my career, Mrs. Trudie Coe.

Mrs. Coe noted that she had been following what she called my “outstanding career” and that she was proud of me and my many achievements and accomplishments. Furthermore, she commented on how my mother had served as such an outstanding role model for her and had so strongly supported and encouraged her as a young teacher and mother.

This was an incredibly melancholy and bittersweet period for me – one in which I very much needed closure. Not only did Mrs. Coe inspire and affirm me at a most tender time, but she also brought a bit of Mom with her. Both Mrs. Coe’s and Mom’s messages were the same: In whatever place or season we serve, encouragement and support reign supreme.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.” (I Thessalonians 5:11)

The teacher had taught once again. This message would carry me forward. The compassion of Trudie Coe shaped my future.

Trudie Coe greatly impacted my life, twice, at divinely appointed times. She influenced my mind as a child, helping me to formulate my passion and purpose, ultimately leading me into the profession of teaching and service in public education. As an adult years later, she affirmed my professional path and helped bridge me into my next season of service in higher education. She brought closure and healing by representing the presence of both a proud teacher and loving mom by inspiring and encouraging me at just the right moment in time.

I will forever be grateful for the passion and compassion she demonstrated which so influenced my life.

American Education Week is November 14 – 18, 2016. Might this be a good time to thank a teacher? Or, if you are an educator, might this be a good time to encourage a previous student?  There is no doubt that lives will be impacted if you do.

More About Dr. Ashby

Having served in multiple roles during her 32-year career in education, Tacy Ashby, EdD, now serves as senior vice president, Strategic Educational Alliances, at Grand Canyon University. She has been a classroom teacher, administrator, appointed official at the State Department of Education, adjunct professor and educational consultant for school improvement. She began her career in the Portland Public School District and served the rest of her public school professional time in the Paradise Valley Unified School District and Cave Creek Unified School District in Phoenix. Prior to becoming a district superintendent, Dr. Ashby was appointed by Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction as Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, and served in this position at the Arizona Department of Education for 2.5 years. Dr. Ashby has received all three of her degrees from Arizona State University. She lives in north Phoenix with her husband, Ron, and they both enjoy the arts, travel, photography and spending time with their family. They have two married daughters, two grandsons and two granddaughters.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.