Denison enjoys head coach spot for Vandegrift Swim & Dive

Lisa Denison, Vandegrift head swim and dive coach, talks to A Spaulding, a VHS freshman, before his 100 freestyle race. YVONNE WONG

By CODI FARMER, Vandegrift Voice

A wave of excitement rushed over her after receiving a phone call from head coach Drew Sanders just days before the school year started in August, offering her the position as head swim coach. Amidst the celebration of this new position, the phone rang again. Unsure of what to expect, she was greeted with principal Charlie Little on the other line, and an offer to teach business as well. Lisa Denison, one of the new business teachers and the head swim coach, faced some unusual circumstances with her new job on campus.

“I literally was hired two days before school started, which is not the best way to start out a new job,” Denison said. “But it’s just the situation we were in. Everybody’s been amazingly helpful.”

Though this is her first year teaching, she has worked in corporate marketing settings for more than 20 years and has been a full-time swim coach as well for local club teams, including the Steiner Stars. 

“A big role I’ve had for many years has actually been teaching in a corporate setting as a sales trainer,” Denison said. “When I was thinking about getting started as a teacher, the first area I wanted to think about was marketing because that’s what my professional background is.”

Denison received her teacher certification in marketing during the summer to teach business classes and she is now the first Vandegrift teacher to have the opportunity to coach and be a business teacher.

“I could think of no better combination than to do the two things that I love most all in one job,” Denison said. “I thought this was a fantastic opportunity and I didn’t want to pass on it. It’s a real career change for me, but it is borrowing from the skills I’ve used in the past and putting them together.”

She teaches Money Matters, which is a class on personal finance, and Principles of Business, which is an entry level business class. 

She thinks everybody should be required to take Money Matters in high school. “People need these skills for the rest of their lives and I think that the materials have been well received by the students.”

Denison said in her new career as a business teacher, she is most excited to motivate her students and get them more interested in business. For example, she says, marketing is also a great life skill to know. 

“(And) If they’re interested in it professionally, I hope to be able to be a resource to them and give them some motivation,” she added. 

With the swim team, Dension hopes her swimmers will continue to break records this year and more students will qualify for state this year than ever before.

“We have a really awesome freshman class,” Denison said. “They are not only the team today, but they are the future of our team, so I’d like to see good retention on the team year to year. I’m all for giving them the best experience I can so that we retain them and we keep a solid team all the way through their senior year.”

In addition to teaching and being head swim coach, Dension plans on assisting with organizations on campus such as INCubator, as she has lots of connections and experience in the business field. 

“I want to try to help with mentoring [in INCubator] and step in as much as I can,” Denison said. But she knows there’s a really large time commitment that goes into the first year of teaching. 

“I know it’s worth it though,” she said. “I love being in front of the students and I love being in the classroom, I always have.”

Vandegrift swim and dive does a team cheer at a meet in the fall. YVONNE WONG
Lisa Denison (left of center) and her daughters Antonia (left), Caroline (center), Natalie (right), and husband. Photo submitted by Lisa Denison.