At Stanton Elementary School on Naylor Road in Southeast, there was a black history celebration Tuesday for the woman whose picture graces the mural outside and whose laugh graces the classrooms inside.
“At 74 years old I’m not about to quit,” said Wanda Oates. “There are still young lives out there that need some kind of encouragement and love.”
Oates has been a substitute teacher at Stanton for four years now, but she could rest on her laurels; after all, she helped introduce girls high school sports in the 1970’s, was among the first woman coaches in the country to lead a boys high school basketball team in the 1980’s, including the very first in D.C.
She led Ballou High School to championships in the 1990’s alongside her friend and assistant coach Brenda Speaks.
“I really could not have done it without Coach Speaks,” Oates explained. “She pushed me. There were times I wanted to quit and she said ‘no, you’re going out to that arena for those young people.’ When Speaks and I are out in the community and see our young people they treat us like we’re rock stars.”
And she was treated like one at the school, with song and music by the Ballou choir and band. Band Director Darrell Watson was a student of Oates when she taught physical education at Ballou and said she had a great influence on his life and career.
“She gave me the tools and discipline to make me who I am today,” he said.
Oates was inducted into the Scholastic Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the D.C. Hall of Fame in 2014.