Professional Profile: Marion County School District's Katie Lee


(This week The Columbian-Progress spotlights Marion County School District Behavior Specialist Katie Lee.)

Q: When and where were you born?

A: I was born in Hattiesburg May 24, 1984.

Q: Where did you attend school?

A: I attended West Marion first through 12th grade. I went to Pearl River to get my associate’s degree, got my bachelor’s from William Carey, got my master’s from William Carey, got my specialist’s from Southern Miss and I have a principal’s license.

Q: Where do you work? Tell us about your job/company.

A: I’m the behavior specialist for the Marion County School District. I work with students who are having behavioral issues in the classroom or who have a behavioral ruling. I write plans for them, research strategies and research interventions for them to be more successful in the classroom. I’m at West Marion two days a week, East Marion two days a week and on Fridays I float back and forth wherever I’m needed.

Q: What led you to your profession?

A: When I was going to get my specialist’s degree, you have to get endorsed in a certain area. You have an option between gifted, which I already had a degree in, mild to moderate special education, which I already had a degree in, severe and profound and emotional behavior disorder. I didn’t really want severe so my only other option was emotional. That’s why I got certified in emotional. As far as getting into education, it took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I think I spent five or six years at Pearl River and completed everything I could there because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Then I went into education, and I’m really glad I did. I love it. Both of my parents were educators. My mom, Judy Stringer, was a teacher at East Marion, and my dad, Perry Coggin, was a football coach at West Marion for 17 years and coached at Columbia Academy as well. Education has always been a big part of my life.

Q: What do you enjoy most about your job?

A: The people I work with and the students. They each have different unique needs. I’m never doing the same thing over and over every day.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

A: Trying to figure out what works best for the students. It’s not always easy because by the time I’m called in to work with the student the teacher has tried different techniques, strategies and interventions. I have to really focus and narrow down what I think the student’s problem is then pull strategies and things I think will help to figure out what works best.

Q: What is the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

A: That you need to learn from your mistakes. For example, last year I was working with a student on a particular behavior, and I spent about a week developing a plan for that student. When I went to present the plan to the teachers, the parents and the student, I was informed several of the things I suggested as strategies and interventions had already been tried by the teachers. So I very quickly learned that I needed to be sure to ask what has the teacher already tried so I don’t waste anybody’s time and repeat the same things that have already failed.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I worked at the Berean Bookstore in Columbia for three years. Dr. Bush and Mrs. Bush owned the store.

Q: Who are the people who have been most influential in your life?

A: Of course my mother. She is a retired teacher, but she is still teaching at New Hope School. I have walked into her classroom before and thought there was no way that kid is going to read and by Christmas she’d have them reading great. She’s very efficient and good at what she does. Ms. Sherrie Williams, the principal at West Marion Elementary, has always been a big support of me pursuing and doing. Then my boss, Robin Hurst, who is the special education director of Marion County, is also someone I look up to and think a lot of.

Q: What is your spouse’s name?

A: Kerry Lee. He works for MDR Construction.

Q: Do you have children?

A: We have two. My son is Zach Zehentner, and he’s 12. My daughter, Skylar Lee, is 9.

Q: If you could have anything for your last meal on earth, what would it be?

A: A steak from Sully’s.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

A: I would like to go to Alaska because it’s very different from a lot of the places I’ve been. I’ve been to a lot of tropical regions and places like London and Ireland.

Q: What hobbies do you like to do in your spare time?

A: I’m a big fan of audio books. I like to travel, hang out with my friends and going to the gym. I love football season; thank God it’s coming up. I’m a big Alabama fan and a season ticket holder to USM. We’ll go to Saints games. I like anything sports related.

Q: What do you enjoy about Columbia and Marion County?

A: This is home to me. My mom moved a lot and went to a lot of different schools. Her one wish for me and my sister was that we would start and finish at the same school, and we did. I like that it’s a smaller town and that you know everybody.

Q: If you could have lunch with anyone from your life or history, who would it be and why?

A: My grandmother, Fannie Jordan, because she financially supported me through college and played a big part in my life. She prayed over me constantly, and she was a rock for me. She passed away last year, and a big place is missing with her not in it.

Q: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do all day?

A: I would have to work. I like it, and it gives me a sense that I’m giving back to the community and society in some way.

Q: What moment in your life has had the biggest impact on who you are today?

A: When I got the email from my chair at USM telling me that I had completed my final project in pursuit of my specialist’s degree. That was a pretty rewarding day.

Q: Using one word for each, what are your top three morals?

A: God, love and forgiveness.

Q: How would you like to be remembered?

A: I would like to be remembered as a passionate educator and someone who loved her children with everything she had.

— Joshua Campbell


Pictured Above: Marion County School District Behavior Specialist Katie Lee said she needs to take a meticulous approach to how she handles each student’s case to make sure she can come up with the best strategy possible to help them. | Photo by Joshua Campbell

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