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Posted July 15, 2013

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Lynn Coyle, Whittier Elementary

Lynn Coyle is retiring from APS after 15 years of service as a teacher and school counselor. She also taught in Santa Fe, Rio Rancho, worked at UNMH as a play therapist with hospitalized children, an art therapist at UNM’s Saturday Arts for Kids (SAK) and briefly as a special events coordinator in the Fine Arts Department. Lynn also worked as an art therapist for a local mental health agency for several years.

Before coming to Albuquerque, Lynn’s first career was as a journalist in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Her first degree was in Communication Arts from Notre Dame of Maryland with further studies at Towson State in psychology. This experience came in handy when she was the newspaper adviser, teaching journalism, English and communication skills at Valley High School. She reported that her students taught her everything about Macs and Photoshop. She came from an era where layouts were done by hand, especially her high school newspaper back in Maryland.

Lynn briefly owned a graphic arts and PR business creating advertising design and writing copy for commercials. During this time, Lynn facilitated kid community mural projects and coached children’s theater. This began her journey working with children.

Lynn arrived in New Mexico after leaving an agency as an adolescent counselor for Baltimore County Public and Parochial Schools. She was recognized by the governor of Maryland for outstanding work in drug prevention with at-risk youth. Lynn comments, “We used to go on field trips to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Unit viewing the end results of DWI and drug abuse.” She particularly recalls hosting assemblies where the county Drug Task Force would come into middle and high schools with K-9 drug-sniffing canine helpers. This really got kids on the alert. She also worked with Baltimore County Police and the Baltimore Orioles setting up after-school drop-in centers for teens.

Growing up in the time of desegregation, Lynn has always been an equal rights supporter. After 25 years in the mental health field, she has been an advocate for children and families with emotional issues and utilizes expressive arts as a model for healing. Lynn came to New Mexico to get her first master's degree in education and art therapy from UNM and later another master's degree in professional counseling and school counseling at Highlands University.

An artist herself, Lynn feels that the arts are a natural language for children. They often cannot talk about their problems, but the arts provide a non-threatening venue, especially with abused and traumatized children.

Moving from teaching English and fine arts to counseling elementary children, Lynn felt she could do more as a school counselor. She says her tools as a school counselor are “art, sand, and play.” Lynn also has been trained in Sandplay Therapy. Children love coming to her room to create “sand stories” in her sand tray. Her large collection of puppets, also provide a cathartic outlet for students. They always leave happier than they may have arrived. Lynn comments, “Our children struggle with so many burdens. As educators we need to provide alternative means for children to learn and express themselves.”

Lynn has served on the APS District Crisis Team for eight years and has been training Student Peer Mediators for the past 10 years. Last year, Gov. Martinez attended a training graduation assembly for Lynn’s students at Whittier. The newly trained mediators role-played for the audience how they assist peers in peacefully resolving conflicts, especially on the playground. Lynn reports that students need these life skills to thrive in a socially challenged time. Many of our children do not come to school ready to learn. They deal with so many survival issues. Lynn's goal as a school counselor has been to assist in removing barriers to learning. She provided various support groups in anger management and grief, as well as facilitated classroom lessons that address many emotional issues such as poor self-esteem, bullying, intolerance/discrimination, and a myriad of family social, economic and cultural issues.

Lynn says promoting student success in education is why we become educators. Her program included her popular event “Kids for Careers Fair,” giving children a look at many job opportunities that help motivate their dreams. She partnered with resources from local media, film, law enforcement, and many other fun career presenters.

After teaching many APS Prevention Programs school-wide, this includes her little kinder kids, Lynn has decided to take time for herself. She plans to complete writing her books and creating art. After all, art is what brought Lynn to New Mexico. She wishes the best for all her students and colleagues that shared her passion for helping kids in crisis. Lynn particularly wants to remember her time working with such rich diverse cultural groups of children and families by making a space for their traditions.

Her first APS job was at Barcelona teaching students to read. Children were motivated as Coyle shared animal stories from her adventures living in the East Mountains. As a member of the Mountain Arts Council in Tijeras, she also taught art at San Antonito’s Summer Arts Program. Coyle especially values her time supporting Native American students with APS Indian Education. She feels strongly and encourages all children to “embrace your culture, honor your culture, and share your culture with others.”

This is the holistic approach Lynn Coyle has brought to APS.

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