Success Stories: Tonya Coates (Accounting)


WPCC’S Tonya Coates: A Woman of Numbers Determined to Grow

Photo of Tonya CoatesMorganton, NC — Tonya Coates’ life is powered by two concepts that seem so very different from one another: the desire to grow and the career of accounting. As a Western Piedmont Community College (WPCC) accounting instructor, Tonya’s goal in her personal and professional lives is to continually learn and grow. In fact, she describes herself as a “lifetime student.” And yet, many of us would probably think of accounting as a very solid and immovable activity. The two paths seem to mesh beautifully for her.

Tonya knew early on that accounting was for her. She came to WPCC right after high school, completing her Associate in Applied Science degree in Accounting in 1993. Upon returning to Burke County after a few years in Florida, Tonya’s longing to learn led her to complete her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Gardner Webb University in 1999 while working full-time at Burke Mills in Valdese. Although Tonya comes from a family of educators, she had not experienced the call to teach until this time. After working as a part-time accounting instructor at WPCC during the Spring semester of 2000, she began her full-time teaching career in the Fall 2000 semester. Always wishing to grow her skills, Tonya again embarked on an advanced degree, a Masters of Science in Accounting from Appalachian State University, which she received in May 2003.

In addition to excelling as a student herself, Tonya feels fulfilled to see her students’ growth. “I see my former students in the community, and it always brings me joy to see their success,” Tonya explained. “I enjoy helping others.” Her dedication to students was recognized a few years ago with WPCC’s highest teaching honor, the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2007. The annual award honors a member of WPCC’s full-time curriculum faculty, nominated by his or her own peers and students, for dedication to the teaching profession. “I was so honored to receive the Excellence in Teaching Award. It is very rewarding to be a WPCC instructor. The education that I and others receive here is the start down the path to a better, more enriched life,” she continued.

This busy, accomplished woman of numbers also gives of her personal time and talents in the community as the coordinator of the College’s VITA tax program, a Master Advisor to new WPCC students, and as a member of Catawba Valley Baptist Church in Morganton.

Tonya, the lifelong learner, has one more education goal on her horizon. She presently is preparing to continue the testing process for the Certified Public Accounting exam. “I consider completing my CPA to be the top accomplishment in the field of accounting,” she offered. “For me, finishing it is a personal goal and another way to have an even deeper knowledge of my field that I can share with my students.”

Graduation at WPCC is a very special time for Tonya. At each College graduation, all in attendance who have completed a WPCC degree are asked to stand for recognition. “I like to be one of those who can stand at graduation as a WPCC graduate,” she said. “I found excellent instruction and a caring atmosphere here that led to a quality education and a foundation that was invaluable as I continued my education and started my career.”

WPCC’s Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting is designed to provide students with the knowledge and the skills necessary for employment and growth in the accounting profession. Using the “language of business,” accountants assemble and analyze, process, and communicate essential information about financial operations. In addition to coursework in accounting principles, theories, and practice, students will study business law, finance, management, and economics. Related skills are developed through the study of communications, computer applications, financial analysis, critical thinking skills, and ethics. Graduates should qualify for entry-level accounting positions in many types of organizations including accounting firms, small businesses, manufacturing firms, banks, hospitals, school systems, and governmental agencies. We invite you to learn more about the WPCC Accounting program. To speak with someone about the program, contact Star Brown, WPCC Accounting coordinator, at 828-448-6059 or

You can also get information about becoming a student at WPCC.

Western Piedmont Community College enrolls approximately 4,000 students annually in pursuit of college transfer degrees, two year associate degrees and diplomas. More than 10,000 students enroll each year in continuing education courses for professional development and personal enrichment. The College also provides programs for high school completion. Western Piedmont received recognition for Exceptional Institutional Performance based on standards established by the North Carolina General Assembly.

LIBBY BARGER, 828-448-3121