LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Ellen Watts

Position: SPED 1:10 and Assistant Girls Soccer Coach
School: Springdale High School
School District: Springdale Public Schools
City, State: Springdale, AR

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Ellen Watts was nominated by an anonymous colleague.

There are not enough words that could express the importance of the work that Coach Watts is doing at Springdale High School. She spends countless hours working with a wide spectrum of students at school. Not only does she spend the day working with a variety of students, but she also puts in various hours after school supporting students and staff. Some of the roles she plays include:

  • Special Education 1:10 Classroom Teacher
  • Assistant Coach Lady Bulldog Soccer
  • Student Mentor
  • PTSA Vice President
  • Perception Committee Member
  • Attendance Committee Member

Coach Watts has one of the most interesting classes one could ever observe. Every student in her class is diagnosed with a disability (Autism, Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disabilities, etc.). She not only teaches academics to her students, but she also takes the time to teach social and life skills to her students. She is not afraid to jump in and do the dirty work, which can include helping with bathrooming students or dealing with sick children. Coach Watts takes the time to focus on communicating with non-verbal students and teaching them how to be independent after high school. It is not uncommon to see her walking the hallways with her students, teaching them how to start conversations with friends and teachers. One of the highlights of what she does in her classroom is give students a voice. Countless times, she has been the stepping-stone for students who are considered “non-verbal” saying their first words.

"Coach Watts peps up her girls for games and gives some amazing speeches. The girls on the team make it a point to stop by her room everyday and engage with her students," said her nominator. "She not only teaches them soccer skills, but how to be a beneficial member of the community. She focuses on leadership and responsibility."

Her classroom wall is decorated with countless letters and pictures drawn for her by current and former students. It is common to see her helping students when they have a personal crisis and giving them her wisdom. A few of these students discussed what she means to them:

“If I had not joined soccer with Coach Watts, my life would still be black and white. She makes coming to school fun, and I know that if I skip or miss school, she will be on my case. Probably would make me run, but its worth it to make her proud.” - 12th grader.

“Coach Watts is like the big sister I never had. She keeps me accountable for what I do at school and outside of school. She is sometimes the only person who asks me about my day, and she even remembered my birthday. Coach Watts bought me a hat like she wears all the time because I told her I liked it and I bring it to school with me everyday. She’s bomb.”- 10th Grader.

“She’s the best. She can go from scary coach in your face to best friend in a matter of seconds. I know she cares about me and the other girls, and that means a lot. She checks our grades and will track us down if we aren’t where we are supposed to be. To me, that says a lot about her. She even came and watched our stuff outside of school like community soccer games. She is my role model.” – 11th grader.



Comments (12)


Judy Penick Posted 8 months ago

Most caring person with a upbeat positive attitude for helping those special needs kids. Always looking for ways to help them grow mentally and physically in their own individual growth development. Every day she faces unknown challenges with a confident smile on her face. She is that special someone I would want working with my child if I had a special needs teenager, a real asset to SHS School System. Always enjoy working with her when I substitute in her class.

Kayla Dalton Posted 8 months ago

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E1ChDLp8SsY&feature=share Check out this video- It will show how Coach Watts interacts with students. Such an amazing teacher and very deserving of this award.

Robert Bureau Posted 8 months ago

When I first started working in Ms. Watts' room I was not sure what to expect. I was not used to working with students with severe disabilities but she helped me transition into the new position. I really enjoy working in her classroom and she always keeps me busy! Great Educator!

Deborah Waldoch Posted 8 months ago

As a district employee I get the privilege to drive a school bus and substitute teach. Two years ago I got the privilege to be in Coach Watts room as a substitute; sometime it was to sub for her and sometimes to serve as a one on one in her classroom. I loved the times that I was a sub for a 1:1 position because I was able to work with Coach Watts. One thing that impressed me was how she made her subs feel. She included us as a team member and watching her interact with other instructors and students; you could see her compassion, enthusiasm and kindness for all was real & generous. Everyone always matters. This year, my perception and observation is viewed through a more narrow lense because I am student at AState studying for my Masters in Teaching Special Education. Coach is the model of what we are learning in class. She collaborates with others and she strives to enable her students to succeed and thrive. She will not allow the students to not at least try. She is always afferiming and positive. She sees their potential and helps her students, soccers girls, and her coworkers feel it and know it. She is sensitive and caring in her addressing correction or discipline. The last two months I have been a long term sub in her classroom. I have been able to observe and learn what a quality special education teacher she is. Coach does well at modeling and showing me how to be a better teacher. Learning from a textbook is not nearly as remarkable as learning from a teacher who embodies and models what a special educator should be. They say, “truth comes out of children”. Coach is a life changer because the reaction felt is visible to all that she impacts. Soccer girl after soccer girl comes into her room to be encouraged challenged and nurtured by her words & actions of caring and attentiveness to their individual needs. My life as have been impacted by her in many ways and I hope to learn more as a special educator from her and to implement the same caring nature she has in her classroom.

Whitney Bell Posted 8 months ago

I have just begun getting to know Coach Ellen Watts and am so inspired by the way she cares for her students. She works with students with a wide variety of abilities and needs. She is constantly improving her classroom to make it a better space for them to grow and feel comfortable at school. My Art Appreciation students are about to do a collaborative painting with Coach Watt's students and she has been awesome to work with!!

Angie Trunick Posted 8 months ago

Coach Watts is an exceptional person who also teaches exceptional children! I was able to work in her classroom as a sub last year off and on and see first hand the love and passion she has for each of her students both in the classroom and for her athletes in the school. The classroom is full of spirit and encouragement. I witnessed her athletes coming to visit with Coach Watts and her students during their passing times and lunches and engaging with the students. She is an amazing person doing amazing things and I imagine it will only get more amazing!

Hannah M Mhoon Posted 8 months ago

Woo!! Ellen is such a hard worker and always positive. I'm so happy our kids have her as a teacher and mentor! :)

Don Eichenberger Posted 8 months ago

We are very proud at SHS to have Ellen here working with our kids everyday. She consistently goes above and beyond with all her students. She is very active in many activities on campus and even coaches a team. She even went and obtained a bus drivers license so that she could better meet the needs of our kids through transportation. Her patience and perseverance are unmatched, particularly dealing with students who have special needs.

Brenda Tenan Posted 8 months ago

Congratulations Ellen! This is awesome and definitely well deserved! You have changed my life for the better as well! Supporting me as a friend, helping me lose weight and running my first 5k with me! Here's to many more races together and many more successes to you! ??????

Kelli Vickers Posted 8 months ago

I agree that Coach Watts is an marvelous teacher. She goes above and beyond to help each student meet goals for her classroom and helps her soccer girls be the best person they can be. Several Soccer girls visit her room throughout the day. Socializing with her Community Based Instruction Classroom students. Some students look forward to students stopping by. Coach Watts has also reached out to other teachers throughout the school to get other students to engage with our class. I absolutely enjoy coming to work each day knowing that Coach Watts has a heart for each student she works with and does as much as she can for her students.

Sharon Watts Posted 8 months ago

Ellen is great at her job because she grew up with an older sister with Cerebral Palsy. She feels a special connection to her students. She is actually her sister’s legal guardian. She is also active in church playing drums on the worship team, travels to do mission work and raises money for different organizations by running 5ks. She also has completed her specialist degree while working full-time and is currently completing her classes for administration certification prior to starting her doctorate. She makes her family proud every day.

Dr. Darrell Watts Posted 8 months ago

Ellen, your mom and I are so proud of the woman you have become. And your disabled sister loves and admires you more than you can imagine! Her influence on who you are is so obvious; you are a champion and advocate for those who can’t help themselves and an inspiration for everyone else!