CWU professor appointed to Ellensburg School Board

Cynthia Coe, New Ellensburg School Board member.

Cynthia Coe, New Ellensburg School Board member.

Omar Benitez, Senior Reporter

A 20-year Ellensburg resident, 20-year CWU professor and now a part of the Ellensburg School Board; Cynthia Coe is a professor in the philosophy and comparative religion department, and was also appointed to the school board’s third seat on Jan. 25. 

According to Coe, she hopes her years of teaching experience and unique upbringing will help her in her new role.

A passion for education:

Coe began her new duties with the Ellensburg School Board on Feb. 8, for what she called a “trial period.”

“It’s not going to be a full four year term, I’m going to be filling out the term of someone who left,” Coe said. “That will give me a chance to see what the work of the school board is like and see how things go.”

Coe will be filling out the remainder of the term of the former member Jason White, which means she will serve on the school board for around two years.

According to Coe, joining the school board is something that she had been thinking about doing for some time now, and since the school board seat became vacant, she decided to apply. Coe was one of eight candidates interviewed by the board. 

“We were all interviewed on the same day,” Coe said. “That gave us a chance to meet the school, the existing members and the superintendent.”

Afterward, the board unanimously voted to bring Coe onto the board as the third seat, according to Coe.

“I guess it surprised me a little bit when I was chosen because there were eight candidates,” Coe said. “I had a little moment of panic when I was chosen … I didn’t expect to get chosen.”

Coe said the main reason behind her decision to join the school board was to support the local school system and her passion for teaching.

“It seemed like a way to give back to the school system that has educated my children and also just support the wider community, so it’s important to me to make time for that,” Coe said. “Education is a very important commitment for me and it’s something I’m very passionate about.”

She said she hopes her extensive background in education will help her as a new school board member. 

“I’m coming as someone who takes education very seriously and wants to learn more about how the public school system functions here in Ellensburg,” Coe said.


A diverse upbringing:

When asked about where she grew up, Coe responded that for her, it was a bit of a trick question. 

“My dad was in the Foreign Service, so he worked in U.S. embassies all over the world,” Coe said.

Coe said her upbringing was not a typical one. According to Coe, her elementary years were spent moving around and growing up in places like Chile, India and Ghana. 

“It felt totally normal when I was a kid because that was just what I knew,” Coe said. “It definitely made me very aware of the diversity of ways in which people live and think.”

After her elementary years, Coe’s family settled down in a city just outside of Washington D.C., where she spent her middle school and high school years.

After graduating high school, Coe decided to attend college in Vermont, at the time still unsure of what she wanted to do. 

“I thought I might be a history or English major, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, maybe become a teacher,” Coe said. “Then, I took philosophy classes and got completely hooked, and so decided to be a philosophy major.”

After shifting her focus, Coe graduated from Middlebury College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy before attending and graduating from the University of Oregon where she earned a doctorate in philosophy.

A professor of the love of wisdom:

Soon after receiving her doctorate, Coe said she decided she wanted to teach. 

“After I graduated, it became more clear to me that I wanted to become a philosophy professor,” Coe said.

She headed to the small town of Monmouth in Illinois to begin her teaching career. 

“My first job was in western Illinois, in this tiny little college called Monmouth College,” Coe said. “My first three years as a professor was there.”

Coe eventually was hired by CWU in 2003 and she’s taught here ever since.

During her time at CWU, Coe has taught not only philosophy and religious studies, but also women’s and gender studies as she served as the director of the program from 2007 to 2014.

Coe has also earned many accolades including: CWU’s Distinguished Professor of Service in 2015, and the CWU Alumni Association Excellence in Teaching Award, among others.

According to Coe, her time at CWU has helped her develop her teaching skills through experience. 

“I learned a lot about how to be a teacher and how to teach material,” Coe said. “I also learned how not to teach material through making mistakes and through trial and error, which has made me a better teacher.”