St. Matthias teacher seen as ‘the heart and soul’ of Lanham school
“For over 30 years there has been a consistent figure in the hallways and classrooms at the Academy of St. Matthias the Apostle School. That person with the infectious laugh and genuine smile is Mrs. Petrina Coyle.”
So begins the nomination letter, written by Ann O’Hare and Abigail Phelps, for the Golden Apple Award for Coyle, one of this year’s winners. While Coyle, who has been at St. Matthias in Lanham for 31 years, humbly acknowledges there are “so many people in this building that could win this award,” principal Abigail Greer begs to differ.
“Trina is truly the heart and soul of this building,” Greer said. “She’s the one who people turn to when things are good. She’s the one who has helped the school community when things have not been good. She works tirelessly.”
Coyle, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in education in 1979, first started teaching at St. Mary School in Landover Hills, and once she got into a Catholic school, she didn’t want to go anywhere else, she said.
“It’s just the fact that you can teach morals and values along with the academics,” Coyle said about why she loves teaching in a Catholic school. “Once you get used to doing that, it’s hard to do without it. It completes the child; it completes your mission.”
While characteristics like the caring and family-like environment have not changed in Catholic schools, some things have, she said. Whereas when Coyle first started teaching there was a waiting list to get into Catholic school, now schools are struggling to maintain numbers. Also, Coyle feels more of the stresses of students’ difficult family situations, she said. “Lots of time we’re the stability in the children’s life now.”
Coyle gave an example of a student who had a rough morning at home, and he snuggled up to her for a hug.
“Once I did that, that’s all he needed,” she said. “It makes you teach better because you’re teaching a lot of different ways to reach all kinds of children.”
Father Jeffrey Defayette, who has been pastor at St. Matthias for 12 years, also noticed Coyle’s dedication to teaching.
In his letter of recommendation, he said “I can remember distinctly faculty, students and alumni comments throughout my first years regarding Trina. She was considered the best, most loved and most respected among parents, peers, students and alumni.”
For the future, Greer is certain Coyle will continue to be a part of the leadership at St. Matthias.
“She’s just such a leader in school, I see her being a driving force in what we have going on here for a really long time,” Greer said. “She will continue being a role model for teachers and parents and serving a really great role in making sure her St. Matthias is taken care of.”