Melanie Cole, a special education teacher and transition coordinator at Pennsylvania’s Slippery Rock Area High School, is known throughout the community as a champion for the district’s students. She pushes for positive outcomes and gets them. In an era of high stakes testing, Cole has been instrumental in the implementation and monitoring of both programs and students that has resulted in great success. Previously considered as underperforming, these same students can now boast of improved scores that have helped earn Slippery Rock High School distinction among the best high schools as reported by the U.S. News and World Report. As a teacher and transition coordinator, Cole works tirelessly with students and their families in an ongoing effort to connect them with post-secondary educational institutions, military personnel, as well as local businesses. As a result, 100% of her students will have the opportunity to contribute to society while pursuing future endeavors.
Cole is credited with helping to create an environment where all students are respected and given opportunities to succeed. In the Interscholastic Unified Sports (IUS) initiative, students with and without intellectual disabilities come together to compete against neighboring schools in soccer, bocce, and track. The program has served as an opportunity to educate all students on the importance of accepting one another. Cole’s commitment to IUS was never more prevalent than when her boyfriend, now husband, proposed to her after a championship game in front of her team and all of their fans.
Cole coaches the varsity girls’ soccer team and serves as the school’s National Honor Society (NHS) coordinator, modeling the organization’s core values: character, leadership, and service. She leads special education department meetings at the high school, collaborates with special education teachers in other buildings, and helps to organize an autism awareness event held in the spring. Cole also works in conjunction with the physical education staff and wellness committee that has initiated a number of school and community events including an alumni flag football game, a 5K run, and an annual volleyball tournament. Whether in the classroom, on the field, or in the community, students know that Cole is forever in their corner.
Cole earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from LaRoche College in 2006, along with masters’ degrees from Slippery Rock University in Special Education (2012) and Special Education Supervision (2017).