Manley to leave school district

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home High School natural resources and forestry teacher Blake Manley, who founded the popular YouTube series “Manley Jobs,” is leaving the Sweet Home School District at the end of the school year.

Manley, who’s been with the district since 2018, isn’t sure where he’s headed, but he’s exploring multiple options.

“There’s a significant opportunity for me to make a bigger impact across the region,” he said, “and I’m going to take that opportunity.”

The celebrated instructor launched “Manley Jobs” (https://bit.ly/3KqS34f), which highlights technical occupations beyond the everyday classroom, two years ago to continue educating his students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It eventually garnered more attention than perhaps anyone expected. Now, the channel boasts nearly 6,000 subscribers and 23 videos. Its sixth episode, “Logging: Log Truck Driving,” has been viewed more than 750,000 times.

The series’ reach led to Manley’s national debut on FOX News’ “Fox and Friends” in September 2021 and, more locally, appearances on such stations as Eugene’s KEZI-TV and Portland’s KPTV FOX 12.

He’s since become a familiar figure in other mediums, as well, from broadcasts to podcasts like “The Dennis Michael Lynch Podcast,” “Brian Kilmeade Show” and “Around the House with Eric G.”

As Manley’s YouTube statistics have climbed, so has interest among Sweet Home students in forestry and natural resources.

During the teacher’s first year, a little more than 100 took a forestry-based class. “I know half of those [kids] were forced into that,” he recalled.

However, last year, the class attracted more than 500 students, beyond the school’s capacity to accommodate. An average of 270 now comes through every year.

Participation has also risen in Forestry Club career development events and competitions. The program has averaged about 40 kids at such events this spring.

According to Manley, other places have started taking notice of this popularity, which became apparent to him in his new job quest.

“The jobs that are out there, all of them are looking at what we do here in Sweet Home and asking, ‘Why was it such a success?'” he said. “Everybody wants a piece of that. And they want my mind of why we were able to make it a success.”

And what is his mind?

“‘Manley Jobs’ was a heck of an accomplishment, but it didn’t happen with just me,” he said. “That overall culture of can-do attitude toward forestry has been awesome. And it goes all the way to the top.

“That’s not a Blake Manley-only thing. That’s administration. That’s schoolwide. That’s region-wide. I know we cost a few companies money, but the community was right there to say, ‘Yeah, let’s do this.’

“I was only part of it. If the administration is not supportive, then all my hare-brained crazy ideas don’t happen,” he continued. “If the community isn’t all in on what we’re doing, and willing to give up their time, effort and money, then all of the things that we were able to accomplish don’t happen.”

That “all-in” aspect is something Manley’s noticed about Sweet Home.

“The industry and business involvement are second to none,” he said. “When I need something, the community is right there, which is really cool.”

Looking back on his time in the town, Manley said he was most proud of the overall culture around forestry within the school, giving credit to everyone who came before him.

“What they had here before my time was that small club, but there was a lot of scratching and earning inches in the game of yards,” he said, borrowing a football analogy.

“Once I got here, we were able to scratch out a lot of yards because of those inches that everyone had earned before that.”

He hopes his successor keeps the department successful in his or her own unique way.

“If a new person comes in here, they can’t be Blake Manley,” he said. “Just like I didn’t try to be [previous high school forestry club leader] Dustin Nichol. I think that’s important.

“If they can maintain the momentum we’ve got going for the first year or two, after two years they’ll find their own track, whatever that is, and then they’ll be able to go to the next level.”

As Manley plots his future, he takes a minute to explore his past, starting with his years growing up in the Union County city of Cove, where he first developed an interest in teaching.

“My last years in high school and my first years out,” he said, “I wanted to be a teacher.”

Manley was a teacher’s assistant in lower-level math classes at Cove High School. However, as soon as the 2000 graduate went into college math, he realized he didn’t want to become a math teacher. So he shelved that idea, instead earning a forestry degree from the University of Idaho, graduating in 2008, after transferring following a single year at Eastern Oregon University.

Manley then went to work for the U.S. Forest Service in Petersburg, Alaska, an island community with only about 2,000 inhabitants at the time. He then moved to Bellingham, Washington, where he spent three years as a night shift supervisor for Sauder Mouldings Inc. in nearby Ferndale.

After that, he returned to Cove and his family’s business, Manley Brothers Logging, for seven years. During that stretch he also served as the high school’s athletic director and head track coach for two years, as well as the football team’s offensive coordinator for one year.

Football is Manley’s greatest sports love. The four-year high-school letterman played at Eastern Oregon University and the University of Idaho for a year apiece.

He later played semi-pro football for eight years as a safety in stints with the Wenatchee Valley Rams, Palouse Thunder and Bellingham Bulldogs, all of the Greater Northwest Football Association.

He continued pursuing that passion in Sweet Home, as the high school team’s defensive-backs and junior-varsity coach.

Manley and his wife, Miranda, have two daughters, Abigail, 10, and Eleanor, 7. Miranda works as an archaeologist and hopes to pursue more opportunities related to that field, another reason the family is moving on.

“I think giving her that opportunity to do more work is important for our family,” he said.

In addition to his work as a teacher, Manley is president of the Oregon Natural Resources Educators Association and sits on the Future Natural Resources Leaders of Oregon’s board of directors.

In 2022, he was the keynote speaker at the annual Oregon Logging Conference in Eugene.

Those who miss Manley’s physical presence should still be able to check in on him virtually. Wherever he lands next, whether it’s relatively close or in some further-flung region of the Pacific Northwest, “Manley Jobs” remains on the air.

“If it is one of the jobs that keeps me a little more local, I’ll keep doing what we do here and what you see all the time,” he said.

“If it’s one of those other jobs that keeps me less local, I’ve already started feeling out different opportunities for that. But there’s a lot of need and want for the ‘Manley Jobs’ YouTube series to continue on.”

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