Kay Couvillon – Lifelong Educator and Student Life Coach

Kay Couvillon, a student life coach, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss her experiences in education and how she came to love coaching.

A teacher with 46 years of experience, Kay earned a Masters’s in Education, plus an additional 30 hours in education from USL, now UL-Lafayette. She has taught all grade levels, including gifted education, in Vermilion, Iberia, Lafayette, and Acadia parishes.

She got her start in 1976 after graduating as part of a class of 500 in Education, looking to get hired at one of the two teacher openings in her home parish of Vermilion. She landed the job of teaching the only class of 5th graders at E. Broussard Elementary which was named after her great, great grandfather, Ernest Broussard; her 10-year-old brother, Jude, was a student in the class of 36 pupils. “Most 5th graders are cool. They’re a pleasure to be around. I discovered how much they wanted to learn and about their hopes for the future.”

Kay reminisced about how different teaching was back then when all the parents were wonderfully supportive. Principal Ray Allen Faulk handed Kay just two things as she began her work….a grade book and a wooden paddle. The paddle was only pulled out once and as Kay said, “I only used the paddle once, not to hit the child but the wall. A student did something and I saw I needed to react. I took her outside and told her ‘When I hit the wall with the paddle you scream. The student waited and hollered and we went back in. For the rest of the year, the discipline was amazing! I knew I was never going to hit her.”

Kay had the opportunity to study how to teach gifted academic students through pioneers in the industry, Dr. Joseph Renzulli and Sally Reese of the University of Connecticut. They created a summer camp program for teachers in the field and sent them back to their home states filled with enthusiasm for this method and practice of teaching.

Kay believes that all kids are gifted, just in different areas. In gifted programs, the teachers integrate emotional intelligence as much as possible in the program as they realize its importance for success in life outside of school.

In 2004, Kay opened her life coaching practice where she offers a space of listening and discovery of life plans. Currently, she serves as an academic mentor in the athletic department of ULL and has worked with athletes in football, track and basketball who need guidance beyond tutoring. She teaches them the importance of keeping their word, being accountable, reporting in, and keeping their scholarship.

We all have similar needs of wanting to be loved, acknowledged, and appreciated. When coaching, I start with a question, ‘What’s up?’ because many teens feel lectured to and not listened to. Until they can think about what’s up for them, they don’t know what direction to go, or if they are going in the direction they want to be going in. I’ve learned over life that about 90% of learning takes place over conversations between people. It’s so important that I listen because that is the greatest gift you can give someone. And I’ve learned that once you move past your fear, there is a reward on the other side.”

Kay shares, “I’m so impressed with UL-Lafayette as the school wants the students to achieve academically and to succeed in life. When Coach Napier arrived, I asked, ‘What do you think of Coach?’ They all said, ‘Coach Napier really likes us and wishes us well.’ They didn’t talk football, but how he wanted to be there with them. This is so important in life, to let others know we want to be there, that we like them, respect them, love them.”

The world is changing so fast that Kay has seen students declare their major and by the time they graduate, that career may be obsolete. Once a student graduates, it is up to them to make decisions on their own. Kay believes it is like a muscle you must exercise. “Wouldn’t it be great if the kids could practice that in class to prepare for life?”

Kay believes she learns more from the students she coaches than what she imparts to them. One of her favorite sayings was picked up from Keegan, an eight-year-old student she coached 25 years ago. “Keegan wanted to do something and I told him we’d wait until later. He said, ‘Why not now?” And I said, “You’re right!” She hasn’t seen Keegan in 25 years but thinks of him often. “We don’t know if we’ll be here tomorrow or next month. Why not now??”

A poet, Kay has enjoyed writing over the years and co-wrote Extraordinary People in Ordinary Times which was published by the UL Press in November 2001.

If you are interested in speaking with Kay Couvillon about student life coaching, please call (337)993-1107 or email kcouvapple@gmail.com.