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An Inspiring Assist

Thursday, November 29, 2012

For LeDawn Gibson, helping students soar – in the classroom and on the basketball court – is a joy that sends her heart and soul into the stratosphere.

That adrenaline rush of physical energy, emotional excitement and the fulfillment of joining together amongst teammates all striving for the same goal – plus the spine-tingling thrill that runs through your veins as that basketball soars into the basket – LeDawn Gibson has felt many times. But even more exhilarating is the happiness she feels when a student experiences that flush of triumph and soaring self-confidence engendered from her time on the basketball court.

Honored with Polk State College’s Distinguished Alumni award for May 2012, this former teacher and basketball coach is well aware that the sense of self-esteem and teamwork that a young person absorbs into her being during her involvement with sports can have a profound spillover effect on classroom performance and overall success in life. And through her work on the court, LeDawn has helped over 30 young women attain basketball scholarships at some of the top women’s basketball programs and has a 100% graduation rate among her players.

LeDawn’s passion for shooting hoops blossomed as a teenager. A 1986 graduate of Winter Haven High, she played on the basketball team and earned “Most Athletic Player” for rebounding and scoring. Her commitment and devotion earned her a basketball scholarship to Polk State College, where she helped the team to the 1987 state playoffs and was the top free-throw shooter for junior colleges in 1988.

Her career aspirations for teaching were also launched at Polk State. LeDawn attended the College from 1986 to 1988 and later returned to finish her Associate in Arts in Elementary Education in 1995. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Business from Warner University in 1999 and a Master’s in Educational Leadership in 2006 from Argosy University.

For nineteen years LeDawn worked for the Polk County School Board, first as a paraprofessional and then a secretary, then as a teacher and finally Dean of Discipline at her alma mater, Winter Haven High School. She also made a huge impact coaching the girls’ basketball program for twelve of those years.

Under her leadership as head coach, the WHHS girls’ basketball team was ranked number one in Florida for nine straight seasons (2000-2008) and listed in the Top 25 high school teams by USA Today. LeDawn compiled a 331-48 record including two state championships, seven finals appearances, and nine District Eight Regional titles. Her accolades include 2006-2007 Class 5A Coach of the Year and six-time Ledger Coach of the Year, among others. Additionally, LeDawn was honored with the 2002 WHHS Teacher of the Year, Polk State College Athletic Hall of Fame induction, and the 2008 Girls, Inc. of Winter Haven “She Knows Where She’s Going” Award.

In 2008, LeDawn was tapped to be the women’s basketball coach for Florida A&M University. As a first-year coach, LeDawn led the Lady Rattlers to a 14-17 season. In 2012, her team achieved an impressive 14-game winning streak; it was the first time the team had over 20 wins in a season since 1997. The remarkable season ended with Gibson being named Mid Eastern Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year.

With her illustrious career reflective of her immense dedication to the sport of basketball and to her students’ growth as students, as athletes and as individuals, LeDawn has truly made a profound impact on her community and its future.