Ronnie Slaughter teaches special education at Kemper County High School. He also coaches girls basketball and track and helps with football.
Ronnie Slaughter teaches special education at Kemper County High School. He also coaches girls basketball and track and helps with football.
By Steve Swogetinsky

Kemper Messenger

When someone discovers the profession they want to do for the rest of their lives, it can be like a lightbulb turning on in their head.

Coach Ronnie Slaughter had that experience as a student at the University of West Alabama.

“I was majoring in business but I was really undecided,” Slaughter said. “My advisor put me in some different classes. One was an education class and happened to be special education. Within two weeks, I said this is what I want to do.”

              Slaughter has nearly 14 years in education field. After finishing at UWA in 2006, he taught special education and coached at R.C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, Ala., for 11 years. He is in his third year at Kemper County High School. He has taught special education while coaching girls basketball, track and assisting with football.

Slaughter worked with students in other classes for the past two years. This past summer, he went back to school and became a certified teacher. Now he has his own class with children who have severe disabilities.

He said his way to reach his students is to treat them like he would anyone else, and to develop a relationship and trust with them.

“I don’t treat my students any different than other students,” Slaughter said. “I expect the same effort out of them as anybody else.

“Now I have a self-contained class. I have the same kids all day. My kids stay with me all day.”

His students have a wide range of severe disabilities. Some may need a wheelchair to get around. But no matter how severe the disability, Slaughter believes they can learn and looks for different ways to reach each.

“People don’t learn the same way,” Slaughter said. “I teach things at least two different ways. If they don’t grasp it one way, maybe they will the other.”

And he doesn’t feel sorry for a student because they have a disability.  When he started a Kemper County, one student in a wheel chair was being pushed from one room to the next. Slaughter made him start pushing his own wheel chair. And it turned out he could push it just fine by himself.

“People said they know he could push the chair,” Slaughter said. “But what is he going to do one day if something happens to his parents and he has no one to push him. He needs to do what he can do for himself.”

There was a case in which a student could not read and it was believed he lacked the ability to do so. There was a multiple choice question. First, Slaughter had him read the question. The he encouraged him to read each answer, all very short sentences. He did.

“I told him, ‘you just read a paragraph,’” Slaughter said. “They can learn, I know they can. They have proven that to me this year.

Everyone learns differently and Slaughter said understanding that is the key.

“It’s a challenge. I have to come up with a way to bridge all these kids together but at the same time, keep them on the level where they need to be,” Slaughter said. “I get to know them and keep pushing. Each day, I want to make them go higher than they are right now.”

For example, he talks money and sports while teaching math.

“They may have severe disabilities but they like money,” Slaughter said. “I tell them you don’t want somebody taking advantage of you so you have to be able to read and count your money.

“When somebody gives you change, you need to know what your change is. I don’t want somebody to beat them out of it, so I have to teach them life skills. Life skills are taught through math. Then I ask why don’t you learn this math and how it will help you in life later on,” Slaughter said.


Slaughter was born and raised in Grove Hill, Ala. and attended Clarke County (Ala.) High School where he played football, basketball and baseball.

He loves coaching but he had his hands full his first season with the girls basketball team. The Lady Wildcats were in a total rebuilding mode and didn’t win a game until into his second season. In fact, many of their losses were by 30 or 40 points.

“The first season was a test,” Slaughter said. “But I didn’t get discouraged. I talked to the girls. They said the old coach put the focus on the seniors the year before.

“I knew there would be a lot of training on fundamentals. But what kept me going was their drive because they never gave up. They never stopped trying.  When someone gives you that kind of effort, I don’t care what the score is,” Slaughter said.

“We are going to be good this year. We have a good group of ninth graders coming up.”

Slaughter also assists with football and is the head track coach.

His wife, Jonetta Cole Slaughter, is from Kemper County and is the school’s guidance counselor. They make their home in DeKalb where they have bought a house.

In his spare time, he likes to cook and watch movies.

              “When I retire from teaching, I may go back to school for culinary arts,” Slaughter said. “I love to cook and I am trying to learn to bake.

“I like all types of movies. I like Lord of the Rings films but I also like biographies where you learn things.”

He was never much into hunting or fishing.

“My father took me hunting a couple of times when I was seven,” Slaughter said. “He said I made too much noise and scared off all the animals. So that was that.”