Twin Texans Cheerleaders Immersed in Education

From KRISTV.com:

Larisa and Marisa Coy know what it’s like to be a student in Baytown schools. Now they’re learning what it’s like in the front of the classroom.

Growing up in Baytown, they attended Crockett Elementary, Baytown Junior and Sterling High School. After high school, they attended Lee College before transferring to the University of Houston for a degree in education.

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After graduating in 2008, they are now in their second semesters as sixth-grade math teachers for the Goose Creek school district. Larisa teaches at Horace Mann Junior High while her sister, Marisa, teaches at Highlands Junior High.

“Our ultimate goal is to earn our master’s in school administration,” Larisa said.

As it is, the Coy sisters are probably Baytown’s best known beginning educators. Even if they’re best known, so far, for what they do down the road at Houston’s Reliant Stadium.

Larisa and Marisa have a second job as NFL Cheerleaders for the Houston Texans. But while they cheer on Sundays, their eyes are never far from the prize.

Education has always been a major priority for the twins, whose mom, Maria, was a math teacher herself.

“Growing up, she never forced it on us or told us what to do,” Larisa said. “But it was always on both our minds.” Marisa said, “We wanted a career we’d love and realized that teaching would be exactly that.”

The recent graduates say they can relate to their students.

Larisa said: “We both feel we can use the opportunities to tell them to go for their dreams and I want to share that with all of my students.”

Marisa added: “We were in junior high once, so we know the trials and what it takes,” she said. “Even though you’re in middle school, you can accomplish your goals if you work hard at it.”

Their football notoriety hasn’t escaped their students.

“Most of the students already know, but others, when they first find out, they’re generally surprised,” Marisa said. “One of my students said ‘I’ve seen you before,’ so I had to tell him where he saw me.”

Hands-on experience pushed the women to their vocation.

While in college, Marisa helped tutor ninth-grade algebra. That’s when she realized she wanted to pursue teaching.

“I think it helped to see students move on. I went to graduation and saw seniors I tutored graduate. That feels very rewarding,” she said.

Larisa said: “One student came to me and showed me his report card and he said ‘I got an “A” in math because of you, Miss Coy. I’ve never been good at math.’ That’s when I realized I had made a difference and I definitely wanted to teach.”

The two draw on their experiences as students.

“When I was in school, math wasn’t fun,” Marisa said. “I’d change problems to make it fun. I try to add real life scenarios.” Larisa said, “I tell my students at the beginning that they will know math, appreciate it and have fun with it. We do activities and journals together.”

Away from the classroom, the sisters are in their fifth year as cheerleaders for the Texans.

“We had just finished at Lee College and were going to transfer to UT and had done some dancing for the Houston Aeros when a friend told us we should come to try outs for Texans cheerleaders,” Larisa said.

Marisa said her parents agreed.

“Our parents told us we might as well go for it because otherwise we would be wondering what could have been,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect, we just tried to stay positive the whole time.”

Staying positive wasn’t exactly easy and the competitions just kept getting harder.

“Our first year,” Marisa said, “we had just turned 20 and there were 900 girls. The field was covered with girls, it was overwhelming.”

The squad of 900 was eventually cut to 35, where it remained for their first four years. Now it’s at 29.

Cheerleading itself is almost a full-time job. They practice about three times a week for about four hours. They are also required to make at least 40 appearances a year, which they always surpass.

On game day, they arrive at Reliant Stadium at 7 a.m., long before the players.

“We get there early to warm up, work on our routine and before you know it, it’s time to start,” Marisa said. “It goes by so fast.”

During their childhood, Larisa and Marisa competed in several dance and singing competitions. They say cheerleading fulfills their passion for dancing as they perform in front of 70,000 fans.

Cheerleading has allowed the twins to be on the big stage, but not just on Sunday afternoons.

In 2008, they were featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Later that year, they were in the first-ever Houston Texans swimsuit calendar. They’ve also represented the Texans organization at Super Bowl XLI in Miami for “Beauties on the Beach,” where they competed in several competitions.

Currently, the two are featured on maxim.com in a feature titled “Ask a Texans Cheerleader.”

“We just think of ourselves as ordinary people and I still can’t believe all these things have happened.” Marisa said. Larisa said, “Since we first came in, every year has been better and better than the one before.”

If that’s the case, this should be a pretty good year as they help put Baytown on the map.

[Larisa and Marisa at HoustonTexans.com]

[Larisa and Marisa at SportsIllustrated.com]

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