May 22, 2019 – In 1997 when Jim Coyle entered Roswell High School as a student teacher, a few things were different than they are now.
RHS had 1,800 students instead of the 2,200 it has now (and at one point during Coyle’s tenure, student population was near 2,500). There was farmland where there are now shopping centers. Where there is a bank now was a small store that sold bait called Greenway.
“The dynamics have changed. The student population has changed. Test scores and the graduation rate have continued to increase,” explained Roswell High School Assistant Principal Jim Coyle, who retires this month after more than two decades at the school. “It’s great to be a part of [a program that’s] recognized in the metro area and the state.”
Unlike many student teachers, Coyle wasn’t in his early 20s, about to embark upon his first career, when he arrived on campus. Instead, he was entering his second act after retiring from the U.S. Army and a brief stint in law enforcement. With a degree in history he obtained during his 21 years in the military, Coyle entered a program in 1993 designed to give retiring military a second career in education, called Troops to Teachers. He was in the first cohort to be offered this opportunity. Education was a natural fit for him after spending some of his time in the army as a drill sergeant and instructor.
“I came in 1997 as a student teacher and I’ve never left the building,” said Coyle. “I’ve gone from student teacher to administrator in 22 years and it’s been a heck of a ride.”
Originally he was interested in teaching history in middle school, but the industry was in need of special education teachers, so his first role was as a special education teacher from 1997-2002 as he wrapped up his teaching certification through North Georgia College & State University, now the University of North Georgia.
Just a few days into his student teaching experience, a department head asked him if a position opened up for the next school year if he’d be interested. He was.
“One of the things that sold me on Roswell High School… [was] I was greeted as a valued member of the community [right away].”
In 2002 Coyle moved from Special Education to Social Studies, where he taught Advanced Placement World History for five years, until he was offered an assistant principal position in 2007.
Jerome Huff, principal at Roswell High School from 2012-2017, worked closely with Coyle on the administration team, and appreciated his no-nonsense approach to working with the students.
“When it’s time to chop wood, then he is firm. I’ve seen him firm with the kids and they knew that he meant business, but I’ve also seen him flexible,” explained Huff. “If it was a black and white, open and shut case he had no reservations, but if not he would think through it.”
Said current Principal Robert Shaw, “Throughout the last two years, I have been able to get to know Jim Coyle and am grateful for that chance. He truly has a heart for kids. He is always concerned about doing the right thing for staff and students and I have learned a tremendous amount from him.”
Coyle’s retirement plans include traveling with his wife and spending lots of time with his five grandchildren.
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