Constance E. Stephens was raised and educated in West Alabama, but has spent the great majority of her adult life educating and coaching others in the Tennessee Valley of North Alabama. Born in Tuscaloosa in 1952, Stephens graduated from Tuscaloosa High School in 1971 before going on to the University of Alabama, where she played varsity volleyball, tennis and basketball, earning an athletic scholarship in volleyball during the 1974-75 season. She received a BS degree in Education from Alabama in 1975 and a graduate degree the following year. After commencing her career as a Biology and Physical Education teacher at Lisman Junior High in Butler, Ala., she came to Grissom High in Huntsville in 1976 and has been a fixture at that school, annually one of the top-ranked academic institutions in the state, ever since. Shes now in her 36th year on the Grissom faculty. Since 1995, she has served as department chairman of the PE and Drivers Education departments. Stephens, known for her easy humor and keen school spirit, has been Grissoms cheerleading coach and girls tennis coach since her first year on the staff. On 12 occasions, she has been named City Coach of the Year in girls tennis, one for each time the Lady Tigers won the city championship, and her cheerleading squads have won 30 championships since 1982. Her Grissom tennis team won a 6A state championship in 1996, sweeping seven of nine titles that season on its way to the top. The team was also awarded the Alabama High School Athletic Associations Sportsmanship Award. Twice, the Grissom girls finished second (1978 and 1986). At last count, Stephens teams had compiled a 374-91 record and appeared in 29 state tennis tournaments. In addition, her cheerleading squads have won 30 Universal Cheerleading Association Camp Championships since 1982, first at the University of Mississippi and every year since 2005 at the University of Alabama. Connie is a key personality at Grissom High School, says Grissom principal B. T. Drake: Her co-workers depend on her humor and heart of gold to keep spirits high during a difficult time for education. For her part, Stephens credits her successes to many individuals two in particular. My late father, James Stephens, instilled in me that being a teacher was a great gift, she said. I knew early on thats what I wanted to do after college. The other was the late Dr. Hannah Gilliam, who was my tennis, volleyball and basketball coach at Alabama. Her sense of humor as well as her knowledge to teach her players sportsmanship and the will to win helped me to realize thats what I wanted to do with my life. I owe her a great debt of gratitude. I love my job. In 2000, a quarter-century after her graduation from college, Connie Stephens was inducted into the Alabama A-Club for her contributions to womens athletics at the university.