CHIMACUM — Chimacum High School teacher Gary Coyan was a finalist for this year’s Washington State Teacher of the Year award after being selected to represent the Olympic educational service district, which includes schools in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties.
The award went to Mandy Manning of Ferris High School in Spokane.
However, Chimacum Superintendent Rick Thompson said Coyan being one of nine finalists is an impressive accomplishment.
“Out of all the teachers in Washington, to be one of nine is tremendous,” Thompson said. “He’s a wonderful asset to our community. He cares deeply about our kids and is just a great educator.”
The Teacher of the Year award was announced Monday in Seattle. Award winner Manning was honored, along with finalists Coyan, Jennifer Tenney of White Swan High School in Yakima County, Ethan Chessin of Camas High School in Clark County, Melissa Charette of Washington Middle School in Olympia, Denisha Saucedo of Kent Elementary in Kent, Laurie Prince of Hanford High School in Benton County, Jon Magnus of Wenatchee High School in Chelan County and Linne Haywood of Darrington High School in Snohomish County.
Coyan has been teaching for 10 years.
He started his career teaching art in Reno, Nev., after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in art and a master’s degree in secondary education from Sierra Nevada College on Lake Tahoe.
“My high school photography teacher ignited my passion for learning,” Coyan said. “Kind of from that point on, I decided I owed a debt to public education.”
In 2009, Coyan moved to Washington state and started teaching two periods of art at Chimacum High School.
Since then, he has served as the district’s athletic director and has taken on the foods and horticulture classes.
“My goal is to kind of open the door to the world of healthy eating and good local food,” Coyan said. “Horticulture and foods are really two sides of the same program.”
Coyan’s horticulture students have created a garden behind the high school where they grow a variety of produce, which is then harvested and cooked by the foods class.
Recently, the horticulture class added three beehives to the campus and the school was named the first “high school bee campus” in the United States.
Coyan’s horticulture students also are in the process of labeling all their crops, which will be used as educational tools for this weekend’s Jefferson County Farm Tour.
This will be the first year Chimacum High School will be featured as a part of the Farm Tour.
“I believe everything that is taught should have real-world applications,” Coyan said. “Kids have a hard time learning abstract concepts in a void, so everything has a real-world application.
“That’s how I learn, so that’s how I teach, and students take extra pride in projects when it’s real-world stuff.”
In his art classes, Coyan’s students design murals that decorate the halls of Chimacum High School and now are designing seed packets for the seeds collected by the horticulture class.
“He started out as a dynamite arts teacher, then, when we found ourselves in need of a horticulture and food teacher, he stepped up,” said new Chimacum High School Principal Brian MacKenzie, who took over the principal position this year from Whitney Meissner.
“He stretched into those role and continues to do so brilliantly. He has really high standards for him and his kids. He holds them to real-world standards.”
MacKenzie said Coyan’s art students not only have the opportunity to learn drawing, painting and ceramic, but also participate in critiques of each other’s art, which is often part of college-level arts curriculum.
“He’s the real deal as an art teacher,” MacKenzie said. “He’s got high school students doing stuff at a level that would fly in college. It’s rare to see art taught so well in the high school.”
MacKenzie said Coyan’s classes also are popular electives for students.
“Kids want to be in his classes,” MacKenzie said. “If we could clone him, we could probably easily fill up all of his classes twice.”
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at [email protected]