Augusta University baseball player follows mom’s footsteps into special education

baseball player

Augusta University senior Lukas Coker always knew what he wanted to do. While baseball may be his passion, the path he’s been long planning for is being a special education teacher.

“I always wanted to do special education. I grew up around it — my mom’s a special ed teacher and I loved being in her classroom,” said Coker. “Seeing the growth and being able to get them at a young age, and being able to get them on the right track.”

Coker’s interest goes beyond the classroom. His family adopted his sister Jayda, a student in one of his mom’s classes, when she was 7 years old. Welcoming her to their family further opened his eyes to the unique needs and experiences of students in special education classes.

“I think it helps for sure. Just seeing the home life with it and the challenges at home as well,” said Coker.

Coker ended up at Augusta University from a community college near his home in Michigan. He wanted to come south to play baseball, but getting a special education degree from the College of Education was a high priority. The rigors of getting the degree aren’t easy.

“You have to do 25 hours in a classroom per education class you have, so I have to get 100 hours in this semester,” he said.

One of his recent classroom assignments has been working with a fifth-grader. Coker goes to a school and works with the student in a one-on-one setting. He said it’s been “cool” to build that relationship. Coker is also in a children’s literacy class, where he’s picked up additional pointers to integrate into the classroom.

Dr. Sharon Swift, an associate professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences, also supervises students at Lynndale, a day program for adults with disabilities. A lot of her students are baseball fans, and since she knew Coker played, she reached out for his support. He didn’t hesitate to volunteer, and even got several of his teammates to go with him.

“These guys did great. They interacted with the participants through a mutual love of baseball. I think they realized they were more alike than different. These two very different groups, college student athletes and adults with disabilities, were able to meet and interact through baseball,” said Swift.

“While of course my goal for the day was baseball, this was an opportunity to advocate for individuals with disabilities. Student athletes, like athletes, are leaders. By the players being exposed to this population and taking this experience with them wherever they go in life is powerful.”

Special education programs are typically dominated by women, and Coker said that’s just another reason he chose the field of study.

“I wanted to get a male in there, play a role of a father figure. I thought it would be cool for that, especially at the elementary level, where there’s not a lot of males,” said Coker, adding that he hopes to set a good example so kids can look up to him as a role model.

“Not too many males go into education, and probably even fewer go into special education. As a former special educator myself, it’s a tough profession. I admire everyone that enters the field. It is truly undervalued in our society,” added Swift.

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Written by
Kevin Faigle

Kevin Faigle is Media Relations Specialist at Augusta University. Contact him to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at kfaigle@augusta.edu.

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Written by Kevin Faigle

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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