A surprise visit from his boss’s boss shocked Tim Coyle on Tuesday.
The Tommie Barfield Elementary (TBE) physical education teacher was caught off-guard when Dennis Thompson, Collier County Superintendent of Schools, stopped by for a quick visit, to name Coyle Teacher of the Year.
Armed with balloons and flowers, Thompson presented the teacher with a plaque commemorating the award, which was also presented to five other exceptional Collier County teachers.
“I was surprised to say the least. I was in a planning period, when Dr. (Jory) Westberry called me into the hallway. ...I saw Dr. Thompson and still didn’t know what was happening. Then she said, ‘You’ve been named Teacher of the Year.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” Coyle said, who was nominated by his co-workers for the award.
“It is quite humbling to think that my fellow staff members think so highly about me.”
“Working with Tim Coyle has given me the opportunity to see firsthand how influential a motivated, student-driven and caring teacher can affect a student. Seeing Tim’s dedication not only to his classes but also to everyone throughout the school has set the tone for others to model,” said co-physical education teacher, Nancy Gutierrez.
“No one is more deserving of this distinguished recognition than Tim Coyle. It is both an honor and a privilege to work with Tim,” said Lisa Braren, fellow TBE teacher. “He always puts the children first and is constantly seeking new and exciting ways to engage and inspire his students.”
The road toward earning the award started a few months ago with nominations by peers in each Collier school. A form was filled out whereby the staff names a deserving fellow teacher and the reasons for their nomination. Coyle said that he was surprised to see his name listed on the announcement.
“There were five finalists and I was fortunate enough to be selected as our schools representative this year. Being recognized by your peers is a great feeling, especially teaching at a school like TBE where we have outstanding people in each classroom,” Coyle said.
“I am thrilled for Tim. He is an extraordinary teacher. He is professional, committed and a true role model, who strives to improve himself and his area of specialization. Tim reaches out to the students and encourages them to become the best they can be, in both physical fitness and academic excellence,” said Jory Westberry, principal.
Asked about how he engages students, Coyle explained that his philosophy is simple: let kids know they have a purpose and contribution to make regardless of age and ability.
“I try to link up with each student individually and work on engaging each child,” he said. To do that, sometimes he simply offers a handshake or asks about a student’s weekend.
“If I can make the kids feel good about being around me, then they will feel good about physical education and be more inclined to do physical activities and to live a healthy life.”
Making each student a priority is Coyle’s recipe for success as an educator.
“The most important service we can perform for the students is to validate each one in the areas in which they excel,” he said.
The greatest challenges to keeping students involved, he said, are those found within all student circles today, distractions like computers and television.
“They are not as motivated to get outdoors and play for 15 minutes, as kids were years ago,” he said, remembering that as a child he went outside to play ball or other sports after school.
Coyle has been teaching at TBE for eight years and prior to moving to Marco Island, taught adapted physical education in New York for five years. He was also honored as TBE Teacher of the Year five years ago, and has a master’s degree.
“So getting that award from the students and now this award from my co-workers is just fantastic. It makes me feel pretty good about what I am doing,” Coyle said.
The only other thing Coyle could wish for is the dream of every physical education teacher.
“If we had an endless budget, I’d wish for a gymnasium for every school, where we could hold physical education activities without being deterred by weather conditions like wind, rain and sun.”
Coyle’s wife, Patti, is also an educator at Manatee Elementary School, where their almost 4-year-old preschool daughter Shannon attends. Coyle enjoys the ride into school with his son, Shamus, who is in kindergarten at TBE.
The six Collier County public school honorees will be officially honored at a school board meeting on May 17, to which the honorees families and their school administration are invited.