Meet Phyllis Coker: A lifelong learner and jack of all trades

Published 10:30 am Saturday, August 5, 2023

A lifelong learner and a jack of all trades, Phyllis Coker has led an adventurous life. After 23 years of nursing, she has decided to settle down at J.P. Powell Middle School as the nurse and hopes to retire there.

Throughout her career, Coker has worked in construction, run a daycare center and earned her CDL license to drive semi-trucks. She drove gas tanks, milk trucks and logging trucks. When her husband was a fire chief, she even drove the fire truck and helped connect the water hose. 

“I’ve had a really adventurous life,” she said. 

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When the transition over to the Eastside Elementary school site happened, Coker wasn’t fazed. She learned to be adaptable at a young age. As a military kid, she and her parents moved somewhere new all the time. 

Coker has also always been a hard worker. Her husband is a pastor at Northside Baptist Church in Opelika. She said she has served as the music director, the Sunday School superintendent and a Sunday School teacher.

Coker always enjoyed change and challenging herself, so it made sense that she decided to go back to school for nursing when she was 28 years old.

When she decided to go back to school, Coker initially wanted to study computer technology and administration. However, after seeing her test scores, the nursing program at the school offered her a full scholarship.

“God had a plan,” she said. 

Though she had to balance work, school and life, Coker said she never thought about giving up. She soon realized she would have to make her education a priority.

“I’m not failing,” she said. “That word is not in my vocabulary.” 

By the end of the program, she had earned her nursing license while graduating with high honors. 

Once she became a nurse, Coker said she worked in every medical field. For awhile, she worked with her youngest brother who is also a nurse. 

“I really do love being a nurse,” Coker said. “I love taking care of people, and my biggest thing is I want to help people.”

When she worked in a doctor’s office, she said she worked with the doctor to help senior patients get their medications for free or reduced prices. 

But after two back surgeries, her own doctor told her to slow down. She decided to stay with her job at JP Powell Middle. She has worked at the school for the past eight years.

“We are all very compatible,” Coker said. “I’m happy and blessed. I just love the interaction with the kids and everybody here.” 

Coker said her coworkers at JP Powell feel like family to her, especially Eastside nurse Sarah Bryan and Principal Allyson Matthews. 

“She is phenomenal,” Coker said. 

Now, Coker is working on getting her registered nursing license with online night courses. However, she said she has enjoyed her time as an LPN. 

“I’ve had a pretty good life,” Coker said. 

Together, Coker and her husband have six children and 20 grandchildren. She said she enjoys spending her time off with her family. 

“They have been a blessing,” she said. “I have enjoyed every moment of it.”