Coyne honored, recognized with Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award


Photo contributed by Tessa Tobias ’24

NHD participants create their projects in a variety of mediums, such as Annika Redding ’24, Tessa Tobias ’24 and Talia Varsano’s ’24 exhibit on the development of the polio vaccine amid the Cold War.

Academic papers, fully-functioning websites, embellished exhibits and self-directed performances are all viable and encouraged projects for the annual National History Day (NHD) Contest—a staple of the U.S. History Honors curriculum, it is a nationwide U.S. history-focused contest open to grades six-12. 

Yearly, NHD teachers are recognized at state and national levels for their dedication to students, creativity and ability to inspire an interest in history, according to the NHD website. For the 2021-22 school year, Staples’ social studies teacher Drew Coyne was named Connecticut’s recipient of the Patricia Behring Teacher of the Year award for the senior (high school) division.

To Coyne, this honor is not only a recognition of himself, but of his students, too.

“It’s a reflection of my kids’ success,” Coyne said. “I can be a mentor. I can be a guide. But at the end of the day [the award] is actually just a testament to what the kids can produce […] I see it as a celebration of all the kids that I’ve taught or helped along the way in the process.”

I can be a mentor. I can be a guide. But at the end of the day [the award] is actually just a testament to what the kids can produce.

— Drew Coyne

As a U.S. History Honors (and NHD) teacher, Coyne supervises students’ projects from start to finish, guiding them through the regional, state and even national competitions. Coyne focuses on opening students’ eyes to topics that are both fascinating to them and that rarely appear in conventional U.S. history curricula.

“[NHD goes] beyond a textbook or a general curriculum,” Coyne said. “It has all of these opportunities for kids to really explore stuff that I don’t know. To watch students uncover unique elements of a curriculum made [the curriculum] dynamic so that I wasn’t teaching the same thing every year.”

Annika Redding ’24, Tessa Tobias ’24 and Talia Varsano ’24—all students of Coyne’s—explored the effect of the U.S. and U.S.S.R.’s relations during the Cold War on the creation of the polio vaccine. Regionally, the trio placed first in the Group Exhibit division.

“[Coyne] has a unique way of teaching where he pushes his students to look at a topic from multiple perspectives,” Tobias said. “This way of teaching […] has helped me understand the reasoning behind others’ viewpoints.”

Former students of Coyne’s, such as Rebecca Schussheim ’23, can also testify to his teaching abilities.

“[Coyne’s class] was one of my favorite classes at Staples,” Schussheim said. “His clear and effective teaching set us up for success in the NHD competition and helped me to hone my independent research and analysis abilities. Additionally, our case study discussions developed my evidence-based argumentation and speaking skills.”