The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

The Hawkeye

Hanging up the beakers and bunsen burners

Currently the longest-tenured teacher at Terrace, Gil Comeau shares his story about his time as a Hawk
Image credit: Serafina Urrutia
Science teacher Gil Comeau displays a physics lesson using an unusual mirror in hopes to make the students laugh.

After science teacher Gil Comeau graduated high school, he knew he wanted to be a teacher.

After he graduated Harvard University, he was ready to take a job anywhere.

Now, he’s retiring after 37 years of teaching and, for the first time since he began his career, he doesn’t know what his life will be like next year.

Comeau has worked at MTHS since 1978, longer ago than any other current staff member. As a Shorecrest High School class of 1970 graduate, Comeau loved his time there. He said that although many people hated high school, he didn’t feel that way. He has kept in contact with a lot of the friends he made during those four years.

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“[High school is] sort of high pressure and you’re trying to figure out how things work, but I had fun in high school,” Comeau said.

He said that in high school, he enjoyed math and science and always excelled at those subjects. When he became a high school teacher, these are the subjects he taught.

“It can be tough to teach things you’re good at because you don’t know why you’re good at it,” Comeau said.

After high school, Comeau attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. He majored in biology and minored in chemistry.

Whether or not he enjoyed Harvard depends on the day he is asked, according to Comeau. He said it was very competitive and there were “a lot of big egos.”

However, Comeau said many people there were smart and driven.

“There were people that were definitely going to be the leaders, movers and shakers of the next generation. Just like me,” Comeau added.

After he graduated Harvard, Comeau said he knew he wanted to be a teacher. However, he always thought he would be a biology teacher as that was his major in college.

“By luck I landed in chemistry and I’m glad I did. I love chemistry. I’m so happy I got to teach that and psychics,” Comeau said.

Throughout his 37 year career at MTHS, Comeau did teach one class of biology.

Along with teaching science, Comeau also enjoys hiking, river rafting and being outdoors. He has been the adviser of the hiking club every year he’s been at MTHS. He said he loves being the hiking club adviser because he has allowed the members to see some beautiful things in nature.

Before MTHS, Comeau had a handful of side jobs. He was a bartender in college and worked at a bicycle shop from the ages of 16 to 26.

Comeau was offered a job working at MTHS in 1978 and said he would have taken a job anywhere. He was lucky enough to be offered at MTHS, he said.

His first year of teaching was startling, but that is how it is for anybody, he said. It was because there were new faces and new ways to teaching, but he immediately loved the students at MTHS.

Comeau spent a year substituting around Edmonds School District and said he thinks “the kids at Terrace are really nice, they’re just regular kids.”

Over the years, Comeau taught many students that later came back to MTHS, one of them being fellow science teacher John Traxler.

Comeau taught Traxler for three years, twice in chemistry and once in psychics.

Comeau said he taught Traxler much of what he knows about science and hopes he has taught him his attitude on teaching. Comeau said it has been an honor to be teaching with Traxler these past few years.

Traxler said Comeau was definitely the reason he became a science teacher later on. He said all of his teachers at MTHS pushed him to go into teaching, but having Comeau for three years had an impact on what exactly he would teach.

“[Comeau] had a big influence on me becoming a science teacher for sure. He made it look fun and something that’s never boring,” Traxler said.

Traxler said he loved Comeau’s teaching style. It was very laid back and casual, which never made class boring.

He recalled his first class with Comeau, his first period on his first day at MTHS as a sophomore. Comeau arrived to class five minutes late with a coffee in one hand. As he went to sit down, he accidentally spilled the coffee all over his lap and then “said a very inappropriate word,” according to Traxler. He left the classroom and came back later and told the class “well, this year’s getting off to a great start.”

Their teaching styles are not identical, but they share the same philosophy about teaching, Traxler said.

“[Comeau and I] definitely have the same philosophy that anyone can be successful in science, that science is something everyone should take, science should be fun and should be about what you see and do in your daily life,” Traxler said.

Traxler said the biggest thing he is going to miss about Comeau will be his sense of humor. He said Comeau makes him laugh at least once a day.

“I’ll miss having someone to talk to about chemistry and teaching,” Traxler said. “Comeau has definitely been my mentor for 20 years.”

MTHS alumnus Larry Francois agreed with Traxler, saying he loved Comeau’s casual teaching style and sense of humor. Francois, by the way, used to teach at Terrace and is now the superintendent of the Northshore School District.

Francois had Comeau for chemistry one year. He said Comeau was very laid back and funny and he made it easy to get excited about whatever he was teaching.

“[Comeau] didn’t take himself very seriously. He was into his science but not in a nerdy way, it didn’t turn you off,” Francois said.

Francois said Comeau had a good balance between being funny and being a teacher.

“I only hope when my time comes to retire, I will have had as impactful and inspiring career as he’s had,” Francois said.

Along with his former students, Comeau has collected his fair share of memories over his years at MTHS. He thought back to his first year of teaching and said he thought somebody might get killed at that year’s homecoming due to the craziness of the students.

After this year, Comeau will retire. He said he’ll miss the MTHS students and other MTHS staff the most. He won’t miss waking up at 5:15 a.m., though, he said.

He also said he will think about the students at MTHS a lot after he retires.

“I enjoy hanging with [the students] and my colleagues. I’m surprised at what great people I get to teach with, very few people are jerks,” Comeau said.

After he leaves, Comeau said he doesn’t know what he’s going to do afterward.

“I’m a little concerned about [what I will be doing when I retire], because I know there are people who sit around and do nothing,” Comeau said. “I don’t want to be like that.”

He said he wants to stay active and might go hiking more or take up golf. He also said that he may travel with his wife “whenever the urge comes up,” since he won’t be bound to a schedule. Maybe he’ll get another job after he retires, though. Comeau said his daughter wants him to tutor young kids who struggle with science and he may do that.

Whatever he does after he leaves, Comeau will certainly be missed by anyone who had him as a teacher or colleague.

Traxler advises anybody who had him as a teacher and enjoyed him should thank Comeau before he leaves and say a real good-bye. Traxler said he definitely will.

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  • L

    LisaAug 1, 2016 at 8:50 pm

    Both Great teachers! I learned so much from them during my time at terrace. They made Science easy to understand and FUN.

  • A

    Aaron ArmstrongAug 1, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Love of science 😛

  • A

    Aaron ArmstrongAug 1, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    Gil, you were one of the great inspirations of my life. You gave me a lifelong live of science, a good work ethic, a love of nature and a fun tumble down your driveway behind that wheelbarrow when I was helping with your landscaping. Ha! Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You will be and are remembered.

  • A

    AlisaJul 31, 2016 at 7:24 am

    Mr. Comeau, you are a great teacher. Many of my greatest memories, though, are from the hiking club. Especially those long 8 day backpack trips. Stories from those adventures seep into my own middle school language arts class often.

    Enjoy your well-deserved retirement!

  • R

    Robert StoddardJun 21, 2015 at 6:59 pm

    Mr. Comeau is a great teacher, one of the reasons that I became a teacher myself. He taught me and all of my 6 siblings as we came through Terrace high years ago. Merry Mountlake is better because of him. Good luck in your retirement Mr. Comeau.

  • J

    Jason PaulyJun 20, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    I remember transferring into his chemistry class at the semester my sophomore year. I was passing chemistry with C then his teaching clicked with me and my grade went up immediately. Went rafting with him twice while in highschool in Wenatchee. I feel sad for the students who will never get to learn from a great great man!!

  • D

    DonJun 17, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Bernie was one of my best teachers I ever had. Others knew him as Gil but his wife outed him with a coffee cup thirty some years ago. His hair is a little whiter than when I knew him. I sure missed him in the hiking club as well.


  • B

    Brandi morganJun 17, 2015 at 2:20 pm

    Great great teacher and person!! Lucky to have had him!!!