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Staton: Gary Coyle was a special teacher, person

I first met Gary Coyle at Pilot View Elementary School.

My daughter Kim had just entered fourth grade. While she was always a really good student, I was amazed at the homework she was bringing home from school each night and I was not happy. I had concerns for the students who were going to fall farther behind.

I had already made my mind up about Mr. Coyle. I thought he let the kids play all day and then piled homework on them at night and expects the parents to work with them. I decided to talk to him about it so I made a trip to the school.

Kim told me before she was going to do a project in front of the class the next day and I thought this would be a good time to go talk to Mr. Coyle.

When I went in, I was shocked to see her standing in front of Mr. Coyle’s desk like she was teaching the class.  She was hitting a nail with a hammer and the nail was going straight into his desk.

Mr. Coyle was sitting in the back like a student smiling from ear to ear. I was horrified and could not believe what I was seeing. I said to him, “I think she just put that nail through your desk.”

I explained to him we were a farm family and I was not happy about so much homework. Both my daughters helped out on the farm at times and we had little down time to spend with them at night. He listened but he still gave homework though not quite as much. I was not happy and thought I had made my mind up about Mr. Coyle. Usually my instincts were right about someone but I was wrong about Mr. Coyle.

What I actually witnessed that day was a teacher giving his student wings to perform as a leader. He gave the students every opportunity to grow and soar. He gave them confidence to stand before others. I learned every student was important to Mr. Coyle.

Soon I started hearing praise for Mr. Coyle from the secretary of the school, from the lunchroom workers, from the teachers, and mainly from the students.

Everyone seemed to love and respect this teacher who did not look like or act like a regular teacher. He smiled all the time and dressed like a cowboy.

I did not know that day I went to school that I too would join the group of admirers for Mr. Coyle. I would really get to know him much more than that one year. Kim not only had him fourth grade but by a turn of events he would also be her teacher again in the sixth grade.

That year, he chose the least likely child of the sixth grade to be the Daughters of the American Revolution award recipient. I thought Kim might get the honor but a boy who had a bit of disability received the honor. That was Mr. Coyle.

He knew this would probably be the only time this child might receive an honor in school. Later, Mr. Coyle told me in confidence after the PTA meeting he had thought about giving Kim the honor but thought this boy deserved it a little more. I had to agree with him as much as I wanted her to have gotten that award.

Kim said her favorite memory was when she did the project on his desk. She said he never set any boundaries in their learning.

My daughter Shanda would also be lucky enough to have Mr. Coyle in the sixth grade. She also agreed he was one of her favorite teachers. Her husband Andy and our son Keith also had him for a teacher.

My husband Eric told about the time Keith hid his report card because he had a bad grade in math. Finally, he showed his report card to him and Eric went to talk to Mr. Coyle. He assured Eric not to worry. Keith would do better and had Keith agree. Keith loved fishing better than homework at the time.

There was a huge improvement in his math grades after that. I am sure Mr. Coyle took an added interest in fishing and Keith after that.

Mr. Coyle never forgot a student. No matter where he saw either Eric or me, he asked about all three of our kids.

He and his wife Linna Anne adopted several kids and they became his life. He spent the rest of his life trying to take care of them. I hope they realize, and I am sure they do now, what a blessing he was to them and the world.

Facebook is filled with his former students telling how much they loved this wonderful man. It seems they all are echoing the same words: “sweet,” “wonderful” and “great teacher.”

When Kim turned 30, I had a cookout for just her friends who went to Pilot View. I invited her principal and his wife, who was also one of her teachers. I also invited Mr. Coyle. He showed up to the delight of the girls. They were so glad to see him again. He was always there where he felt he was wanted or needed.

Mr. Coyle has continued substitute teaching in his retirement years. He was a blessing to so many, and he left this world with a multitude of good memories.

Rest In peace, Gary Winston Coyle. Thanks for being you. You will be missed.

Sue Staton is a Clark County native who grew up in the Kiddville area. She is a wife, mother and grandmother who is active in First United Methodist Church and Towne and Country Homemakers.