The teaching career meant to be

By Ritika Khanal, Op-Ed Editor

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For business teacher and head men’s basketball coach Nalin Sood, it all began with a conversation he had in his twenties with his predecessor, coach Roger Ottmar. After graduating from MTHS in 1987, Sood went on to coach several different sports, and, eventually, to become a sports and marketing, as well as personal finance, teacher at MTHS.

Sood’s parents migrated to the United States from Africa and Europe in the late 1960s.

“My dad went to school in a mud hut in Kasumu, [Kenya], but when they came over here, my mom found out about these youth programs for kids and got my older sister involved,” he said. 

Soon after, Sood began listening to Sonics games with his dad on the radio and playing sports with his friends at recess. In the second or third grade, he told his mom he wanted to play soccer with his friends, and she signed him up.

“I was probably about six years old, and 44 years later, I’ve never missed a year of participating in sports,” he said.

Sood didn’t feel like he was a “scholar’ in high school, but he enjoyed his classes.

“The classes that stood out to me were the ones that were the most challenging, that I had self doubt whether I could do it or not,” Sood said.

One of Sood’s biggest motivations for doing well in school came from his sister. When he saw her get honored as a distinguished graduate in math and science, he was determined to get one, too, even if it meant taking challenging classes that he otherwise might not have taken.  

“I remember walking into the counselors office the next day and I thought, well one, my sister’s not going to one up me, but two, that motivated me to want to do well in my classes,” he said.

For Sood, MTHS was the perfect stepping stone into the life beyond. He didn’t just get a four year promise of commitment from his teachers and coaches. He got a lifetime’s worth, and he still keeps in touch with most of them today. It was from these teachers and classes that he learned the lessons he carries with him now. Responsibility, accountability and reliability.

While in school, Sood also forged strong relationships with his classmates. To this day, he still remembers the morning after senior night, while everyone walked to their cars after a long night of celebration.

“I remember standing there thinking, I’ve seen most of these people for two-thirds of the year for 12 years of my life, and I’m never going to see the majority of them again,” he said.

After graduating high school, Sood went on to get an undergrad in marketing and management. 

The classes that stood out to me were the ones that were the most challenging, that I had self doubt whether I could do it or not.”

— Nalin Sood

“It wasn’t really applicable specifically for any job or any career, and so I was wondering where I was going to go with this. That’s when I had a conversation with coach Ottmar and he impacted me,” Sood said.

In his early twenties, coach Ottmar approached Sood about teaching. At first, Sood wasn’t sure about that path, thinking that he would make a “horrible” teacher. However, he had always enjoyed coaching, and Ottmar showed him that “coaching is teaching and teaching is coaching.”

Not too long after the conversation with Ottmar, Sood came to MTHS as a paraeducator for six months. One day, while he was walking down the hall, he noticed longtime teacher Larry Link at the top of the stairway laughing with another teacher.

“I saw Larry Link laughing with somebody and I thought to myself, man, if I could be that happy at a job, that’s a pretty good life,” he said.

After six months at MTHS, Sood went to Ellensberg to attend Central Washington University and got his degree in business education as well as his teaching certificate. With the help of administration and his former teachers, he was able to come back to MTHS to student teach under Beth Gilbraith. In the summer of 1983, a job opened up at MTHS, and Sood took his chance. 

“I came here at Mountlake Terrace highschool in 1983, and I’ve never left the place,” he said.

Today, Sood serves as the head coach for MTHS men’s basketball and teaches classes in personal finance, business and sports and entertainment marketing. 

Looking back at his high school career, Sood wouldn’t change much of anything if he had the chance. 

“I have three regrets in my life,” he said. “One, I should have never gotten rid of my 1966 chevy, two, I should have bought microsoft when I thought about it, and three, for every pair of Jordan pairs I bought, I should have bought two pairs. One that wears out and the other one I keep in a box and sell someday when I’m sixty years old so I can retire.”

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