Joe Wyatt
Published February 17, 2022

Ashley Coffman naturally wants her students to fully comprehend the information she imparts, but she also strives to help them understand the applicable nature of the subject matter – why it is important to know.


“When I was in college I always wanted to know why I needed to learn something, and if I didn’t have the ‘why’ I wasn’t the best student,” said Coffman, an assistant professor of biology at Amarillo College’s Hinkson Memorial Campus in Hereford.

“When I teach my students,” she said, “I try to focus on why you need to learn it, why it’s important to know, no matter what career you’re looking at. Whether it’s health sciences or you’re going to go on to a university, you need to know why certain knowledge is valuable and how it can be applied beyond a classroom.”

Coffman has long been interested in the sciences and after graduating from high school in McLean, Texas, she opted to pursue a bachelor of science degree in interdisciplinary studies. She graduated in 2012 from West Texas A&M University and began teaching science in grades 4-8.

“I liked that,” Coffman said, “but pretty quickly I realized what I really wanted to do was teach at the college level, so I went back to WT for my master’s degree.”

In 2016, she graduated from WT for a second time and worked briefly as a pathology technician at a food-safety lab until a job opened up at AC, where she has since become a mainstay at the Hinkson Campus. She teaches Anatomy & Physiology I and II, and Microbiology, which she admits pose challenges.

“I know the sciences are typically considered among the more difficult courses,” she said. “A&P and micro indeed are difficult, so I break things down into smaller, bite-sized chunks so it’s easier to digest.

“If you can break it down in a language that’s more understandable, especially for somebody just starting out, it makes it a little bit less intimidating.”

Additionally, to offer extra credit when studying human musculature, Coffman sometimes leads her students through a yoga workout, which is one of her own favorite recreational pursuits.

“Then they have to explain which muscles they were working, how did they move their body, and explain delayed onset muscle soreness, which most people experience after a yoga workout,” she said. “That helps students see how things are working instead of it just being ‘here’s a picture.’ I mean, how can looking at a picture be better than seeing how something actually works in real life?”

Coffman enjoys the congenial nature of AC’s campus in Hereford and is quick to praise the students it serves.

“AC’s campus in Hereford is great,” Coffman said. “It’s small and close-knit like a little family. We really have some of the best students, too. They’re just fabulous and I love my interactions with them. I love what they bring to the table.

“I love teaching about my subject because I am a huge nerd. It’s true, I really am,” she insists, “and having students who reciprocate just makes it even better.”

Coffman does not always project her self-proclaimed nerdiness on weekends, though, because that’s when she engages in another of her favorite avocations: three-day eventing, which is a sort of ‘equestrian triathlon’ that involves the spirited bustle of dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

But the horsewoman reverts to form when pursuing yet another of her passions.

“I love the study of viruses,” said Coffman, who is presently working toward a graduate certificate in Emerging Infectious Diseases though the University of St. Joseph. “What I’m learning has been fabulous for teaching my students how a disease moves through a population, whether it’s Covid or H1N1 or a Salmonella outbreak, and what we can do to prevent it or stop it.

“We have limited time to get through our textbooks, obviously, but throughout the pandemic viruses have been something of an additional focus in my AC classes.”

Coffman’s contributions at the Hinkson Campus extend beyond the classroom. She annually partners with a colleague, Dolores Arambula, to coordinate a vast multi-agency Community Health Fair for Hereford and the surrounding area.

She also helped establish the Clothing Closet on campus to provide students with appropriate dress for job interviews, and those in healthcare fields with scrubs. She also pitched in when a Food Pantry was installed at the campus.

Coffman and her husband of 8 years have an 18-month-old son who, since his arrival, has understandably altered their lifestyle.

“Our little boy is great, but having him has really shifted how we prioritize our work and our time outside work,” Coffman said. “We like hiking and traveling and now that our son is getting old enough to participate, he’s starting to love these things, too.”