Cove logger named SHHS natural resources teacher

Sean C. Morgan

Starting next year, Sweet Home High School students will have the option to earn credits in natural resources following the School Board’s decision last week to hire a natural resources career and technical education teacher.

The board approved the hiring of Blake Manley during its regular meeting on April 9.

The program is starting later than officials intended.

They were unable to find a suitable candidate for the position last spring, said Principal Ralph Brown, and they began advertising for the position again in November.

“We had some quality candidates,” Brown said. Based on his professional and college experience, Manley “was the most suitable candidate out of the pool,” he said.

Manley, 36, has been an athletic director, coach and substitute teacher in the 1A Cove School District, located near La Grande, Brown said. He has an endorsement in career and technical education.

Manley is a logger and forester with his father’s company, Manley Brothers Logging, which is based in Cove. He substitutes at area schools.

Beginning about four or five years ago, he was a varsity football coach for two years, head track coach for two years and athletic director for two years all at Cove High School.

Manley said he’s always loved coaching. His high school senior project was to set up Little League, and during high school, he kept busy coaching a junior high program. He continued to coach during and after college.

He became a sports official about 15 years ago, he said. He has continued to work as an official off and on, as his work and family commitments have allowed.

Manley grew up in Cove, graduating from high school in 2000. He earned a degree in forestry from the University of Idaho in 2008.

“Our hope is we’re going to have two pathways,” Brown said. One will be for students who plan to pursue forestry in college, and the other will help students develop the skills they need to go to work in the forest after graduation.

Developing the program will take time, Manley said.

“The first direction is to provide kids that aren’t going to college with the background in an industry where they can to start to work in it.”

His family’s business has hired plenty of kids, so he’s got a good idea what students need to know, but he wants to find out more from local businesses what they need, noting that the logging business is different in Sweet Home, with more skylines and steep terrain.

“I want to know what they want and set the kids up for success that aren’t going to college,” Manley said.

The second direction is to offer students an opportunity to understand the forestry industry so they know whether they want to pursue forestry in college, Manley said. If they decide they’re interested in forestry, they’ll be a step ahead.

“I think he’s going to be a great addition,” Brown said.

Dustin Nichol, the construction trades teacher who served as adviser to the Forestry Club, which he founded, until last year, said the hire has “been a long time coming.”

“I think it’s a big step in the right direction for the kids,” he said.

Nichol said Sweet Home hasn’t had a forestry program since 1985 when he was in high school.

“Thirty-four years later, it’ll be back in the school system, and this is in a timber-oriented community,” Nichol said.

Kristin Adams, the school’s success coordinator, which includes working with CTE programs, said she’s “excited.”

“I think that Dustin Nichol has set a real foundation with the Forestry Club and forestry competition.”

The Forestry Club was formed in 2007, Nichol said, when a Philomath student moved to Sweet Home and requested it. Karla Burcham, a local resident and SHHS alum who worked for Weyerhaeuser at the time, took the lead in establishing the club, and initial funding came from members of Sweet Home’s timber industry.

“Together, we developed the Sweet Home Forestry Club,” Nichol said.

Nichol withdrew from the program a couple of years ago, and Niki Stafford has advised the club in the interim. Stafford was honored April 7 with a VIP Award at the Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet for her work with the club.

The Forestry Club has provided real-life experiences and a classroom introduction to forestry that has led to other opportunities for students, Adams said.

“I’m glad we have the funds to support it.”

She expects it to increase student participation, she said, adding that new leadership is just going to help take it further.

Manley will take over leadership of the Forestry Club, Brown said, which will allow the team to compete at state meets. Because the program is currently only a club, Sweet Home has faced restrictions on its ability to compete, though the Huskies have won several recent state championships, both individual and team.

“I think Blake’s going to do a great job for us,” Nichol said. “It gives the students the opportunity to go directly from high school to a higher earning wage, high-demand job right away.”

CTE-type jobs have labor shortages across the board, Nichol said. They range from plumbers and pipefitters, to welders and construction workers.

Students need to know it’s OK to learn those trades, which are capable of supporting the students and their families, he said.

District Supt. Tom Yahraes spent time listening and in learning sessions during his first 100 days in the district last school year, he said.

“We are proud to introduce to the Sweet Home High School curriculum the forestry and natural resources program of study, which will complement Sweet Home’s statewide-recognized Forestry Club, which Mr. Nichol, his students and sponsors have so well developed,” Yahraes said.

“I recognized the community’s desire to grow a forestry program of study, and we are proud to deliver. A complete forestry program of study honors Sweet Home’s roots, its history, as well as the current-day vocations that are associated with the timber industry, from land management of natural resources to logging and all the associated possible jobs those occupations yield.

“We have a natural outdoors classroom available to us. We want our education experience to be connected to our local regional jobs as well as provide a pathway to great vocations and college programs. We’re excited to invite and welcome Blake Manley and his family to Sweet Home.”

Manley is looking forward to getting started, he said.

“I can still do forestry stuff, which I’m passionate about,” Manley said, and he gets to work with youngsters.

“The last couple of years, being an athletic director, you’re elbow-deep working with kids,’ Manley said. “They’re infectious. They’re so great to be around. They keep a person young.”

Balancing work and youth sports can get tricky when he has to be on a job site at 5:30 a.m., work all day and then rush to the field to coach, he said.

“I didn’t know there was an opportunity to teach forestry until about 18 months ago,” Manley said. He learned about that possibility through a CTE adviser at Eastern Oregon University. She told him about a posting for a forestry position at Philomath High School.

Once he knew that such a job existed, he talked it over with his wife and extended family. They all told him he ought to go for it; with his degree, it’s the perfect job for him to be able to teach something he is so passionate about, they told him.

Manley said he was never interested in teaching science or math all day, he said, but being a CTE teacher is different.

“Once I knew it was a possibility, I’ve been determined to do it,” Manley said. “I saw this. It was the right fit. The more I’ve been in Sweet Home, the more people I talk to it, it’s just the right fit.”

For a guy who loves hunting, fishing, forestry and kids, he said, there are “few places that fit that bill as good as Sweet Home. I love it. I think it’s going to be a good fit for my family. We love to go fishing. We love the outdoors.”

His children, Abigail, 5, and Eleanor, 2, love the mountains, Manley said. His wife, Miranda, loves small towns but is from San Diego, Calif., and will enjoy visiting the larger cities nearby.

Visiting Sweet Home, “every time we turned a corner, there’s a log truck parked in somebody’s driveway,” Manley said. “It made me feel at home.”