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Special Olympics coach has roots in Illinois State’s P.E. teacher program

Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O'Connell

Kathleen O’Connell, M.S. ’88, adapted physical education specialist in McLean County Unit 5 schools, is a Special Olympics coach in Project UNIFY. This education-based project uses sports and education programs to activate young people to become positive agents of change by fostering respect, dignity, and advocacy for people with intellectual disabilities.

In Project UNIFY, Special Olympics athletes play sports—basketball, soccer, and bocce—with partners without disabilities. Through her efforts coaching the unified soccer program, several Illinois athletes secured positions on the national team and will complete in the 2014 USA Special Olympics National Games in June in New Jersey.

Last year, O’Connell and her colleague Sondra Simmons ’03 were recognized with the Award of Excellence from the Illinois State Board of Education for their work with Project UNIFY and the Youth Activation Committee.

When asked what advice she would give to new physical education teachers O’Connell said: “Surround yourself with a good team wherever you work. Being a member of a team makes you a better educator and to serve your students as a whole child.”