Local teacher and historian Bill Coate received a standing ovation during a school board meeting Tuesday after Tenisha Armstrong, 29, Coate’s former student, discussed the impact he has made on her life.
“I have had many positive influences in my life but none so important to establishing my career as historian Mr. Coate,” Armstrong said. “It was Mr. Coate’s unorthodox approach to teaching history that remained with me as I entered college, making me uniquely qualified to edit the papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
Armstrong showed the Madera Unified School District Board a copy of “The California Hundred.” She read the personal message Coate wrote to her in it.
“The California Hundred” was written and researched in 1989 and 1990 by Coate’s Madera Method students, one of which was Armstrong. The students based their writing on original, primary source documents, including the diary of Maderan Frederick Quant who served in the Civil War unit.
“To my friend Tenisha who has inspired me as a teacher. I wish every educator could teach students like you,” Coate wrote in the book.
Armstrong showed the board a copy of her latest work, “Threshold of a New Decade: The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr.” She then read the personal message she wrote to Coate in the book.
“Rarely there is one special teacher who makes a profound impact on a students life. Mr. Coate, you are such a teacher,” Armstrong said. “You have inspired me to teach, research and appreciate the past. Without your inspiration, this volume would not have been possible.”
“The project’s principle mission is to publish the definitive edition of King’s most significant speeches, sermons, correspondence, and unpublished manuscripts,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong presented the book to Coate as he approached the podium. He stood silent for several moments. Someone from the crowd said, “this is the first time Bill has had a loss for words.”
“I remember Tenisha. She was an inspiration,” Coate said after he took a moment to gather himself. “They don’t write biographies about teachers. But our biographies are written in the minds of our students.”
Armstrong graduated from the University of Santa Clara and is currently working on a Masters degree at Stanford University.
Armstrong also attributes her academic and literary success to her mother, Sandra Edwards, and her family.