Cedar Hill ISD to Host Special Olympics Basketball Tournament on Saturday

kids playing basketball

(CEDAR HILL, TEXAS) As a three-sport athlete growing up in Burleson, Heather Parks always knew she wanted to teach and coach.

She graduated from Texas Wesleyan University and began working at Cedar Hill High School in the mid 1990s.

During her time at CHHS, Parks was the head girls soccer coach and later became involved in teaching Partner Physical Education (Partner PE) where high school scholars have an opportunity to teach Special Education scholars about sports.

“I learned during that time that I have a passion for coaching Special Education kids,” Parks said.

Parks, now in her 27th year with CHISD (the only district where she’s worked), is a Special Education Instructional Coordinator.

She will coordinate the Cedar Hill Special Olympics Basketball Tournament, which begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at CHHS. Cedar Hill has two of the eight teams in the tournament, and they’ll welcome teams from DeSoto, Duncanville and Ellis County. The Championship Game will tip off at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Parks said she loved coaching varsity soccer, but she really enjoys coaching Special Olympics.

“I love these kids, and I love making a difference,” Parks said. “I love seeing the smiles on their faces. They’re having fun, being part of something. I tell them that we’re all winners.”

In addition to teaching Partner PE, Parks also mentored several Cedar Hill High School scholars who came back to the district to teach Special Education – including 2019-2020 CHISD Elementary Teacher of the Year Melissa (Guevara) Tyler, who is now the Adapted Physical Education Specialist for Education Service Center (ESC) Region 10 in Richardson.

Parks also taught Waterford Oaks SPED Teacher Bailey Lemon, who recently earned a $10,000 Cedar Hill ISD Education Foundation (CHEF) Grant for her SPED Scholars and former Permenter Middle School SPED teacher Juliana Cantu.

Parks was presented with an Honoring Our Outstanding Paraprofessionals, Lead Educators and Administrators (HOOPLA) Award earlier this month.

“It was nice to receive this award, but I’m not big on awards or attention,” Parks said. “I do what I do for the kids. I like to be behind the scenes to make things happen. I love my job, and I love my kids.”

Parks was nominated for the HOOPLA Award by Kelley Landrey, mother of Cedar Hill High School Special Olympics Athlete Benjamin Landrey.

“Coach Parks is amazing,” Landrey said. “Her priority is the children. If she can make one child smile, she has done her job. She recently went beyond the extra mile for Benjamin. She is always energetic and willing to help when needed.”