Mike Zagyva — former Canby middle school teacher, principal, three-term school board member, Vietnam War Marine veteran, 30-year member of the Oregon National Guard and longtime community leader — can add a new title to the list. He was named Canby’s latest Hometown Hero Wednesday night.
The award is handed down by the mayor and City Council, recognizing rare individuals for outstanding leadership, achievements, vision and contributions to the Canby community.
Zagyva is the 15th name to be added to the Hometown Heroes plaque at City Hall (and only the fourth since 2008), joining the likes of Bob Trappe, Carol Meeuwsen, Doc Harms, Deborah Sommer, Greg Perez, Judith Patterson and Walt Daniels — the longest-serving council member in Canby history.
Mayor Brian Hodson announced the award at the Canby City Council meeting this week, before a standing-room-only crowd of Zagyva’s family, friends and supporters, calling it “recognition that is long overdue.”
“Mike, I appreciate you, your wisdom and your leadership in our community, and just you, yourself, as a person,” Hodson said. “It has been an honor to get to know you. … Thank you for all that you have done for our community and, I know, will continue to do.”
“I have met a lot of really great men and women in my life,” agreed Councilor Chris Bangs, a current teacher at Canby High School. “I have never met anybody with more honor and dignity than Mike Zagyva. Thank you, Mike, for all that you’ve done for me and our schools.”
Many of those who spoke Wednesday night were Zagyva’s former colleagues and students at the Canby School District, where he spent more than three decades as a history and social studies teacher, athletic director, football and baseball coach, vice principal and principal — most memorably, for 12 years at Ackerman, when it was the state’s third-largest middle school.
They recounted humorous anecdotes, meaningful moments from Zagyva’s legendary career and the impact he made on generations of Canby students.
“He could have been heavy-handed, but I think we all know the integrity he has, and that helped me grow into the person I am,” said former student and current Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office deputy Scott McBride, recounting a few times he’d run afoul of school rules. “I didn’t have a dad around, and he showed me what it was like to have a strong man in my life.”
“I envy you,” he concluded, pointing at Mike’s son: fellow deputy John Zagyva.
“He always had my back,” said longtime colleague Ron Boost. “The integrity with which he conducted himself and the support — and love was there, also — and that’s a hard mix to find. And the humor.”
Boost’s testimony was notable for another reason — as maybe the first and only time the word “orgasm” was said on the record at a city council meeting — as he recounted a time Zagyva filled in for an absent science teacher during a parent-teacher conference.
“He meant to say the students would be drawing their organisms,” Boost deadpanned, to gales of laughter from the audience and city officials. “But, you know, a few letters didn’t make it in there. I don’t know how he envisioned them drawing orgasms, but he proudly announced that one.”
Also shared Wednesday night: Perhaps the greatest teachable moment in the history of the Canby School District, delivered by fellow longtime educator Tony Crawford.
“We had this period of time at Ackerman, where it was popular for girls with this bright red lipstick to be kissing the mirrors and windows of our schools,” Crawford recalled. “So, Mike comes up with the solution.”
Zagyva rounded up the “usual suspects,” Crawford said, and led them down to the girls’ bathroom, where the head custodian, Joe Viol, was waiting.
“I want you to see how hard he has to work to clean up this lipstick off the glass,” Crawford recalled Zagyva saying. “Mr. Viol walks in, doesn’t say a word. He walks over to the toilet, swishes it around with his scrub brush, scrubs the mirror. There was not a single lip print to be found afterward.”
Zagyva himself eventually managed to take the podium.
“There are not a lot of times in my life that I’ve been speechless,” he said. “This is one of them. I want to thank all of you for being here. I don’t have the words to say. I want to thank my family, my kids, my lovely wife. There’s no way I could have done it without you.”
In addition to his career with the district and the military, Zagyva has served on Canby Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bridging Cultures Canby and other groups.
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