Debra J. Coffey has excelled as an associate professor of elementary and early childhood education at Kennesaw State University since 2004, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses. Embarking on her professional studies at Carson-Newman University, she earned a Bachelor of Science in home economics education in 1980 before joining the University of Tennessee Knoxville as a graduate assistant and teacher later that same year. Between 1981 and 2000, she was an elementary school teacher at the Christian Academy of Knoxville and completed her Master of Science in child and family studies in 1982. Returning to the University of Tennessee in 2000, she spent the next four years as a graduate assistant, graduate associate and adjunct professor, ultimately obtaining her Doctor of Education in teacher education in 2004.
Inspired to a career in education by her mother, a first- and second-grade teacher, Dr. Coffey attributes much of her success to her parents, who taught her to enjoy the process of learning, and to her own diligence in pursuing her goals. A staunch advocate of global literacy, she has partnered with colleagues and various organizations to promote reading skills and establish literacy centers. She has proffered her expertise through articles, book chapters, textbooks, presentations and workshops. Her most recent book, “Promoting Education Success Through Culturally Situated Instruction,” was published in 2021. Dr. Coffey’s ongoing works include a book on “Quality Teaching Now” as well as a book on developing literacy centers.
Affiliated with numerous professional organizations, Dr. Coffey is notably the chair of the college and adult literacy division of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers. Currently, they are working to launch a journal in conjunction with the International Literacy Association, where she serves as the president of the CARE special interest group. Looking toward the future, Dr. Coffey hopes to continue to work on the upcoming journal as well as maintain her editorial roles with the Journal of Young Adult and Children’s Literature and the Journal of Invitational Theory and Practice.
For her excellence, Dr. Coffey has been the recipient of a number of honors and accolades. In 2018, she was presented with the A.B. Herr Award for outstanding contributions to literacy education by the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers. She is also proud to have been a semi-finalist for two awards, the Distinguished Professional Service Award and the Research and Creative Activity Award, from the Kennesaw State University Foundation. Beyond these recognitions, and the many other awards she has received over the years, Dr. Coffey considers the highlight of her career to be the day of her doctoral defense, after which she was presented with flowers and told that she had exceeded her professors’ wildest expectations.