Doctoral Student Teena Coats ‘16, ‘21PHD Strives to Inspire Future Technology Educators the Way She Was Inspired Through the NC State College of Education

Teena Coats

Editor’s Note: Joe Busby ’99PHD , the former NC State College of Education faculty member Teena Coats talks about in the article below, died in early March as a result of an accident. This article was in development before his passing. 

Teena Coats ‘16, ‘21PHD came to NC State to pursue an engineering degree. But a series of conversations and interactions with Joe Busby ’99PHD, a former technology education faculty member in the NC State College of Education, made her rethink her career direction — and changed her life.

Busby was the type of teacher who would bring bread, peanut butter and jelly to most of his classes so his students would have the opportunity to eat something in case they didn’t get another meal that day, she says. “You could always tell he cared and that went a long way.”

Coats went on to take a few technology education courses the following semester and discovered her passion and a home in the college’s technology, engineering, and design education program.

“My decision to focus on engineering and technology education during my undergraduate years was heavily influenced by conversations with Dr. Joe Busby,” she said. “It was a process of experimentation until I found the field that matched my needs and wants in a professional field.”

After earning her undergraduate degree, Coats earned a master’s in education with a focus on curriculum and instruction for Integrative STEM education and a minor in special education before returning to the NC State College of Education to pursue a Ph.D. in Learning and Teaching in STEM in the program area of study in engineering and technology education.

She currently serves as graduate teaching assistant, where she teaches an introductory graphics course for the technology, engineering, and design education undergraduate program.

“Dr. Busby’s passion for teachers and technology education was a significant factor in my decision to return to NC State in hopes that someday I could inspire future technology education teachers the way he inspired me and several others,” Coats said.

The doctoral student from Snow Hill, N.C., would like to continue to teach at a higher education institution when she graduates next year. She wants to work with young adults in a collegiate setting and teach future teachers content knowledge and methods for teaching.

Coats is also thinking about teaching in a K-12 environment for a few years to improve her classroom teaching skills before entering into higher education full-time.

“The end goal is to serve as clinical faculty at a university working with students every day, doing research and making an impact where I can in my community and profession,” she said.

Her current research focus is on beginning technology education teacher experiences. That topic was inspired by the fact that there is a teacher shortage in technology education, Coats says. And like every other subject area, teacher retention is a problem.

“I want to know more about what these teachers experience leading up to and during their first few years in the classroom and how these experiences influence decisions to stay in or leave the classroom,” she said.

Coats may not have set out to be an educator, but she’s passionate about the profession and the future of technology education. And she wouldn’t change her decision for anything.

“Every day brings a new adventure with a new set of challenges to be solved. I strive to constantly improve my teaching so I can meet my students’ needs,” she said. “I also enjoy the connections I build with students and the other teachers in the profession. It fuels my desire to be the best I can be for the students and to learn for and from them.

“Education is the most internally rewarding vocation there is, which makes the struggles you encounter along the way worth it.”