Praise for Author Ken LaVigne and his book Coach the Soul

“Ken LaVigne is a truly remarkable educator, and his passion and expertise shines brightly in Coach the Soul. His stories, reflections, and advice will make you a better teacher, and a more complete human being. There is wisdom on every page.”

Alex Kajitani

Speaker, Author & 2009 California State Teacher of the Year

“I’ve had the opportunity to travel the world, asking young folks and old, the wealthy and the poor, the famous and the infamous, to tell me about their favorite teacher. I never hear stories about teachers that have to do with curriculum or content standards. I never hear about pretty classrooms or PowerPoint presentations. I never hear about grades or report cards, back-to-school nights or special field trips. What do I hear about? I hear about soul.

“Coach Ken LaVigne is a teacher with soul. He is one of the best educators you’ll ever meet. He looks deep inside his students to search for their unique and beautiful potential. Pushing past tragedy and the terrible choices young people can make: violence, drug use, family chaos, poverty, and despair, he goes to work gently, persistently, passionately pulling the best out of the young men and women he teaches. This book, crafted from the gritty stories of the real kids he teaches and the formative experiences from his own life, tells you everything you need to know about how to become that one person who makes a difference in the lives of others. It will also show you how important it is to know and nurture the souls of the children we are entrusted with teaching, for that has the power to change everything.

  “They say that for children to make it, they just need one person, one person in their lives who believes in them, who won’t ever give up, and who makes the journey with them to ensure they make it. For hundreds, if not thousands of kids, Coach LaVigne is that person. This book will show you why.” 

Rebecca Mieliwocki

2012 National Teacher of the Year

“Ken LaVigne is a gifted and talented writer. His stories should be shared with new educators as they enter our profession. These new teachers really need to understand the power of relationships, learning about their kids, and the power they have to change lives. They need to understand what an important force they are in the lives of the students they see every day.

“This is one of the most heart-wrenching and uplifting books I have ever read. I cried, my heart swelled with pride, and this book left me inspired. Not only can I see the quilt that his grandmother made in my mind’s eye, but also the quilt that he has created with the stories of his students and the many lives he has touched. It is so important for us as educators to remember that we teach CHILDREN, children who have a story, a story that they are sometimes afraid to share. Once they feel our hearts, they will share theirs with us.”

Helen Papadopoulos

2007 California State Teacher of the Year

“Ken’s heroic tales of the many vulnerable and at-risk students, whose lives have been deeply touched by him through his unique educational program, present just one piece of the scope of his program’s influence.

“As an Advanced Placement English Language teacher and College Counselor at La Serna High School, I worked with a number of the students who served as mentors for Ken’s OASIS students. They labored in his classroom daily to provide motivation, emotional and academic support, and importantly, to serve as role models. Many mentors shared their personal experiences in the OASIS program in their college application essays. They wrote of the humility and respect that came from working with students, many of whom had desperately challenging life circumstances to endure. They wrote of an awakened appreciation for their own teachers, gained from experiencing first-hand the difficulty of motivating and inspiring students who are reluctant to learn.  They wrote of the satisfaction and reward that came from forging a personal and meaningful relationship with a peer they would probably not, otherwise, have gotten to know. They wrote of the deep and abiding love and respect they had for “Coach” LaVigne as they watched him coax, cajole, encourage, demand, support, and love the students he was often pulling or pushing toward a successful academic finish line. The life lessons they shared in their college applications were often as deep and as powerful as those of the students they helped to coach.

“Shortly after Ken was hired to teach and coach football at La Serna, our principal, Leo Camalich, asked me if I had met Ken yet. When I answered that I hadn’t, he said, reflectively, “You’ll like him. He is the kind of person people just like to be around.”  Ken’s innate humility causes him to deflect any personal accolades. He is always quick to point to the efforts of others who work with and around him. Coach the Soul demonstrates how one man’s—one educator’s—personal commitment to the success of every single student to both endure and prevail can happen through embracing the core values of the human soul.”

Karen Lantz

Advanced Placement English Teacher, College and Career Advisor,

La Serna High School

“The tapestry of stories in Coach the Soulpositively influences the reader as teachers and mentors make the difference in the lives of so many. The heartfelt honesty and life stories are candid and express the wonderful spirit of humankind. I have worked with author Ken LaVigne for over twenty-five years, and his gift of storytelling is an absolute treasure.”

Dina Tsuyuki

English Teacher and Department Chair,

La Serna High School

“Before meeting Ken LaVigne and being a mentor in the OASIS program, I was set on my career choice to be a neuroscientist. After my two years as an OASIS mentor and getting to work with Mr. LaVigne, I am currently pursuing my teaching credential. Coach the Soul is a privilege and an honor to read. Knowing what it is like in that classroom with Mr. LaVigne, I understand how true these stories are. I am so grateful to know Ken LaVigne, to have learned from him, and to have been inspired by him. While reading this book,I don’t think my eyes stopped watering for even a second. It is a gift to educators everywhere; truly it is! It fills your heart to the brim. Teaching is less about history and math, and much more about coaching the soul.”

Emily Brock

Two-Year OASIS Academic Mentor,

La Serna High School

“Coach Ken LaVigne is one of the individuals I admire most in this world. I am truly thankful to have him in my life and am honored to call him my friend. Over the years, he has inspired me to be a better man and coach. He continues to be my role model to this day. For me, it feels like all is well with the world each time I have the opportunity to enjoy his company. He has a special gift of making people feel good about themselves. Coach the Soul paints an incredible picture of the life of a great man who has inspired so many. What an awesome journey it has been! Thank you Coach. I hope you know how much you mean to me and my family”

 Andy George

Head Varsity Football Coach, Teacher,

La Serna High School

“Ken LaVigne is as rare of a person that you will ever meet. His authentic and personal touch to Coach the Soul is his lifelong journey as a professional educator.  This book is a must-read for anyone and will inspire those looking to make a difference in the lives of America’s youth. Mentoring not only the youth, he touched my own life and helped shape the person and coach I am today.”

Dave Pierson

Head Varsity Football Coach, Teacher,

Santa Fe High School

“Coach the Soultakes you on a journey inside the heart of what it is to be a great teacher. Ken LaVigne’s passion and commitment to students who have given up on themselves is a testament to the power of unconditional love. It also demonstrates that the more you give, the more you receive; for as much as Ken has changed the lives of these students, his soul has been indelibly inked by their kindness and gratitude. It is a powerful story of what is possible when you ‘teach their minds but most importantly, coach their souls.’” 

Martin Plourde


Whittier Union High School District

“Ken LaVigne’s Coach the Soul shares the experiences of resilient high school at-risk students to life in this collection of inspirational stories. Ken and the student mentors that he trains are bridge builders who repair human souls. This book will open eyes and hearts alike to the journey that so many of our young people today are forced to make.”

Lisa Barnes

Intervention Specialist,

La Serna High School

Ken, it is 12:30 am and I just finished reading your manuscript. I started it this morning when I had a few minutes before my day got started and I couldn’t wait to get back to it this evening! My eyes are blurry from reading on my iPad in the dark but they are also moist with the tears I shed while reading this beautiful patchwork quilt you have created! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this book with me. Thank you for the important role you played in the life of my boys! I cannot wait until it is available in print as I have already started my list of people that I plan to buy it for! Thanks so much!”

Tracy Fish

“I have known Coach LaVigne since 1997 when he arrived at La Serna. He was my son Stephen’s head coach and line coach for the varsity football team. At the beginning of the season, Stephen came home from practice with his game jersey. It was number 55. Stephen had played football for the past three years, two years with La Serna and a year in Pop Warner. His number was always 50, so I was upset Stephen was not given the number 50 now that he was starting on the varsity football team. I told Stephen I was going to go to the coach and get his number changed. Stephen told me to calm down and said that each year, Coach LaVigne secretly gives a lineman who he truly respects the number 55 because that was Coach’s number. That player would be an extension of Coach LaVigne on the field. It is a sign of deep respect and trust. I spoke to Coach about this and he asked me if I would like to change Stephen’s number. He said that it was my decision. That demonstrated to me the character of the man Coach Ken LaVigne. He is my brother from another mother. I love him.”

Claudine Sanchez-Parrott

I have had the personal and professional privilege of working with Ken LaVigne for more than twenty years. I consider him one of my heroes. In Coach the Soul, Ken very poignantly demonstrates that when you lead with the heart, then and only then do people feel valued, and that’s when the learning begins.  Ken or “Coach” as we loving call him, reminds us that we are all complicated human beings and it is through our real connections to one another that we all become better people. Coach the Soul is sure to inspire and quite possibly move you to impact the life of another.

Ann Fitzgerald


La Serna High School

Over the past 26 years, I have had the privilege of getting to know Ken LaVigne on many levels. First, as his student at Santa Fe High School, later teaching alongside him in our Intervention program at La Serna, and currently as an administrator continuing to work closely with our OASIS program. Coach the Soul compiles genuine stories of challenges and triumphs that Ken and his students have experienced over the years within and outside of the classroom.  These stories are told by a man who wears his huge heart on his sleeve, and teaches even the most at-risk students that it’s okay to do so as well. Inspiring scenarios that demonstrate the hope and grit that Ken expends on a daily basis to make huge differences in the lives of his students and all who cross his path, including myself. 

Kristin Kooiman

Former Student of Ken LaVigne,

Assistant Principal, Curriculum,

La Serna High School

Coach the Soul, depicting the journey that Ken LaVigne has taken from childhood, touches our hearts with every story that he shares.  His own reflections on how he became the man he is, today, are heightened by his commitment to his students and his willingness to bring love and order to their lives.  Their stories and the impact of Ken’s embrace will inspire you.  As hope resonates throughout this book, you will sing Ken’s praises and feel determined that you, too, can make a difference in the lives of our most vulnerable youth.

Rita Stevens

Assistant Principal, Guidance,

La Serna High School

Coach the Soul is a book that anyone can relate to and, without a doubt, is a must read for any educator, whether a seasoned veteran, first-year teacher, or anybody interested in learning to unconditionally love and show true compassion for their fellow man. Within the bindings, one not only gets a glimpse into being an educator but an understanding that being “Coach” is something far greater than only being in the classroom and applying theory and sticking to curriculum. It’s about love, empathy, and compassion; and Ken LaVigne delivers his stories and teachings without constraints. I can do nothing but sing praise after praise not only for this book, but for the man, my coach and mentor, Ken LaVigne. Bravo, bravo!

Jimmy Hope

Former Student and Football Player, English Teacher,

Whittier High School

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