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Steven Gregory retires from teaching science and coaching after 21 years with UCSD

Courtesy of Steven Gregory
Steven Gregory taught science in Unalaska for 21 years. He also ran the school’s hatchery program, and coached wrestling and Native Youth Olympics.

The Unalaska City School District saw significant staff turnover this year, including the retirement of Sharon O’Malley, Karie Wilson, Linda Lekanoff, Trish Adams, Steven Gregory and Jim Wilson.

KUCB's Carlos Tayag sat down with some of the retirees to reflect on their time with the district.

Today, we hear from Steven Gregory, who taught science here for 21 years. He also ran the school’s hatchery program, and coached wrestling and Native Youth Olympics. Tayag sat down with him following his last trip as a coach with NYO this spring.

This interview originally aired on KUCB on June 22, 2023. It has been edited for length and clarity.


STEVEN GREGORY: I've been very fortunate to teach at this school. I graduated from this school, went to this school from second grade through my senior year. I came back here to do student teaching and substitute teaching and taught here for 21 years. My dad was a principal and superintendent, my mom was the school nurse, my sister has been the head cook for more years than I've been teaching here. The school has been very, very good to the Gregory family. And we have tried to reciprocate as much as we can.

I would just personally like to thank the community for all their support and all the opportunities they've given me, for sure. It's made my life here. It's going to be very strange not being Mr. Gregory, or not having a Mr. Gregory at the school. It will be the first time in a long time that there hasn't been one. But the school will carry on it will continue to improve. And I'll be around. I can be anybody's private science teacher, tutor or whatever is necessary.

CARLOS TAYAG: Well, first off, congratulations on multiple things, retirement and also a good last showing at the Native Youth Olympics.

GREGORY: Switching occupations, I don't want to call it retirement. I'll still be involved in Native Youth Olympics next year as a volunteer or possibly an official. I will be at the statewide meet next year.

TAYAG: Well, let's go back to the start. How long have you been coaching NYO?

GREGORY: Well, at Unalaska City Schools, 21 years and I coached two years at Aleutians East when I was in Sand Point, so 23 years of coaching. I did not experience Native Youth Olympics when I was in high school here. It was not offered until I had graduated. We’ve gotten our share of medals over the years, second place a number of times, but never was able to get over the hump to get to first place. But we're proud to get second place all those times because we've beaten schools like Anchorage, Mat-Su, Nome and Bethel — huge schools with a proud tradition of Native Youth Olympics. But it's not about comparing ourselves to other schools. It's about just doing our best and if our best is enough to get a gold medal or a second place, then we can live with that for sure.

TAYAG: Well, that's kind of the spirit of the games, right? It's not necessarily about competition. It's more about encouraging every individual and team to be their best, right? The athletes are helping out other athletes, and the coaches are coaching other kids, right?

GREGORY: Absolutely. That is why the Sportsmanship Award that we got this year is the most coveted award, because it's what NYO is all about. The most important thing is the way you conduct yourself and help out other teams, help out the officials, whatever it is. That Sportsmanship Award, it's different in Native Youth Olympics than it is in any other sport because Native Youth Olympics, like you said, it's all about sportsmanship, it's all about sharing your skills and your traditions with other people, passing them from older to younger, that kind of thing.

TAYAG: What's the legacy that you want to leave as a longtime coach of Native Youth Olympics in Unalaska?

GREGORY: Well, my legacy would be to take what I learned and pass it on to the other coaches and to my athletes. I just want it to continue, I want the continuity to be there.

It's my last year coaching at the Native Youth Olympics games from our school, so they let me speak at the Alaska Airlines Center. The NYO coordinator gives me the microphone and says, “It's your last year so we want to know what you thought about NYO, right? And I just kept saying how great it was, and no long live Native Youth Olympics, right. And whatever I can do to make that happen, I'm going to continue to do it. My legacy is taking what I learned and passing it on to the younger coaches to the to the athletes that have graduated. So that's happened. I have former athletes that came in to help coach my current athletes. To me, that's what it's all about. And it's very helpful to me too, because not quite as good at the Alaska high kick as say, Kim Gumera, but you know, I can teach it, I can kind of show it right. But he come in and does it perfectly still. And so it's very inspirational to see and do it. Plus, he's able to describe what he's doing and how he's doing it and how he was able to get to that point too. And so the help of the former athletes is very, very important for a number of reasons, just to continue that legacy. I'm so proud of them for coming in after work on their own time. Really happy to see that.

TAYAG: I think that means that you left a lasting impact or they're still emotionally connected to what they accomplished and what they were doing and Native Youth Olympics many years ago, right?

GREGORY: I'd like to think I had something to do with that. It makes my heart soar like an eagle is what I tell the kids all the time, because it does. Native Youth Olympics is about getting better and passing on the traditions, right. But we don't want to stagnate just like I learned things in high school. And I learned things in college right about science. I tell my students all the time, I'm teaching them a concept in high school. And I tell them, I didn't learn this till I was in college, right? And they say, "Well, why do we have to learn it?" And I say, "Because you guys are better than me, right? You're the next generation, we're supposed to be growing we're supposed to be advancing." So same thing with the records. Any record holder will say that, "I want to be there when that record gets broken, so I can see it get broken." But it also tells me that the sport is growing, the sport is progressing, people are continually getting better. And that's kind of important. Stars will align properly. And we will get a championship banner one of these years, but that's secondary to what I just said, right? Getting the sportsmanship, continually growing and improving and spreading the word of the Native Youth Olympics is what it's all about. So I think we've done that. That's one of the things we teach them that it's not just something you do during NYO season, that sharing knowledge, helping people out, being a good sport, that kind of thing, that's a lifestyle. We always say that Native Youth Olympics, when I coached wrestling, I would say the same thing about wrestling. Because it's true. It's wrestling as a lifestyle. Native Youth Olympics is a lifestyle. It's the way you you approach other people, other competitors, right?

Not only are you competing against them, they're making you better, and you're making them better, right? It's not that you're eliminating them, like it is in some sports. And so yeah, that's pretty important. It's my whole philosophy of teaching is that, no, I can't teach kids everything they're going to need to know. But what I want to try to teach them is the skills, give them the confidence, give them the skills, where they can continually learn and improve themselves, right? I'm not going to teach them everything they're supposed to know. Right? But I'm teaching them how to learn. Give them the skills to continue to learn and that's always been my philosophy of teaching for sure and coaching.

Carlos is a chef, music enthusiast and father from Washington state who now calls Unalaska home. He's KUCB's volunteer DJ coordinator, and he also hosts a weekly radio show that probes the far reaches of the musical galaxy. When he's not making corn dogs, he's probably eating some. Stop by the station any night after 11 to say hi!
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