There’s a good reason Edward Coyne was voted the “Teacher of the Year” at Benicia High School. He doesn’t just teach world, history, he brings it to life. For the past decade, Coyne has facilitated a month-long, citywide cold war simulation that engages some 250 students in the spine-chilling tension of those times. It’s an experience that families talk about for years. “If students are talking about history outside of class, then I win,” says Coyne.

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Coyne arrived in St. Louis at the age of 10 with his single mother, three siblings, and $75 to their names. Today, all four siblings have post-graduate degrees, and Coyne credits his mother’s hard work, her multiple jobs, night school–and faith. “When I feel sorry for myself, I look at the photo of my family arriving in the US,” says Coyne.

Teaching is his life’s calling, but it hasn’t been an easy road. Coyne struggled with dyslexia and visual modality as a child, and was told he’d never go to college. To cope, he started experimenting with substance abuse at the age of 12, and by 19 he was in rehab. Determined to turn his life around, he worked hard to get into Saint Louis University on probation with the condition that he maintain a 3.50 GPA. He graduated in 1989 with a 3.66 GPA in history, then went on to earn his Masters at DePaul University in Chicago.

His first success after getting sober, says Coyne, was with Ultimate Frisbee. The sport took him all over the world, and eventually to a team in San Francisco. As a star athlete, he played at the national level for 16 years, winning the World Title in the professional league.

An advisor for the BHS Mountain Bike Club, Coyne cycles on his lunch break every day. He also loves to trail run and to build things with his hands. Above all, his son Aidan and daughter Rory are his priorities. “That’s my job now, to be a good daddy.”