Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer
June 9, 2023 // FEATURE

St. Vincent de Paul Principal Brings Joy and School Celebration to Students in Unique Ways

Christopher Lushis
Freelance Writer

Zachary Coyle, Principal of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Fort Wayne, enjoys finding tangible and creative opportunities for his students. Since arriving as Principal at St. Vincent’s in 2021, Coyle has been known to occasionally greet children at the start of the day by wearing various costumes, some of which have been constructed by students in advanced math classes. At the conclusion of the 2022 academic year, he even surprised many kids — and parents — by welcoming them in while riding upon a horse.

Photos by Christopher Lushis
St. Vincent de Paul Principal Zac Coyle poses in authentic firefighter gear for a photo with some of his students in front of a FWPD firetruck on Wednesday, May 24.

In continuation of these creative efforts, he arranged for a Fort Wayne Fire Department firetruck to come to St. Vincent’s campus on Tuesday, May 24, for students to climb aboard and explore before the start of the school day.

Coyle exclaimed, “We are here in our final week of school trying to celebrate our kids. Celebrating that school is good, that life is good, and reminding our students that we delight in them! We are really excited to give the kids this joy and to remind everyone that school should be fun! I think sometimes that gets lost in the modern world. People forget that, but kids don’t forget that, and I think we do a good job here at St. Vincent’s of not forgetting that. This fun experience is a way to celebrate the goodness of the year and give them some real smiles on their way in for their final week.”

He added, “I really want to thank Kyle Groves, because this would not have happened without him. Kyle is one of our school dads, has three kids in the school, and is on active duty in the local fire department. I can’t thank him enough for all the creative magic to make this work and get this truck to come here.”

Regarding the inspiration for this event, Groves emphasized, “We thought there is no better way to come into your last week of school than by walking past a fire truck. We organized with the fire department and crew at Station 13 to see if they could come over and allow the kids to walk past them and greet them as they came into school today.”

When the children learned they could go into the firetruck, climb aboard, and sit in the front seat, they shared shock, amazement, and great delight.

The opportunity to interact with the firefighters brought joy to the adults too, as some kids excitedly requested to receive autographs from the FWFD crew; a new experience for the men.

Speaking on the educational value of this type of experience, Coyle said, “The particular fruit of the Holy Spirit we’ve focused on at the school this month has been ‘joy.’ In thinking about how we could grow and increase that for our kids, we felt this was a real opportunity for pure joy. Young children love trucks, but I think there is this actual understanding that our firefighters protect us. I think there’s a deeper spiritual level to this type of thing. They continue to learn in this Catholic environment that God is our Father, and He protects us too. We can respond with joy at recognizing His love for us.”

Coyle’s joy has been tangibly felt by students who have seen him dress up throughout the year. Some have used their math skills to make him special costumes out of cardboard, including a wolf (in honor of English teacher Matt Wolff), the Wizard of Oz’s Tin Man, a dinosaur, and even a giant cake. He said, “It has been educational and great fun. We try to lead each child to see their value, understand their worth and potential, and help them to grow. The effort to serve the broadest range of kids possible was started in a major way by previous Principal Cheryl Klinker and we continue to live this out on a daily basis. It is an exciting privilege to walk with our students. Now I need to start working on how we will open school on August 9!”

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