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Nick Perigo wears a lot of hats: a few figurative, and some literal.

garys mens womens wearHe currently juggles teaching fifth graders at Bellingham’s Silver Beach Elementary with coaching baseball for Cascade Crush and is also working on a master’s degree in leadership from Western Washington University.

Perigo has a full schedule, to say the least.

“I’m really busy,” Perigo says, nodding, “but it’s better than the contrary.”

In just his third full year of teaching, Perigo has proven himself an effective educator who gains the respect of his students and keeps his classroom of 10- and 11-year-olds successfully on task — most of the time.

And he’s found that lessons learned as a baseball coach often translate to the classroom, and vice versa.

Nick Perigo
Perigo has had great success as both a basketball and baseball coach over the years. Photo courtesy: Nick Perigo.

Born and raised in Bellingham, Perigo attended Roosevelt Elementary and grew up in the Texas Street neighborhood.

“Our apartment backed right up onto Roosevelt Park, so I’ve seen some stuff,” he says with a wry smile. “I really try to keep the perspective I got from that.”

The summer before third grade, Perigo made a new friend in Jeremy Hirschkorn. Little did those two boys know that they would become best friends, one day be roommates, and grow up to coach side-by-side for some of Whatcom County’s most talented young baseball players.

“I decided I wanted to be a teacher when I was in seventh grade,” Perigo says. “I’d always wanted to be a paramedic, but then I had a phenomenal seventh-grade teacher and changed my mind.”

Perigo began attending the Bellingham Boys and Girls Club when he was 14, not long after the facility opened its doors next to Roosevelt Park.

“Fourteen is kind of late,” he admits, “but there was really nothing else in the neighborhood to do.”

Another thing he came to late? Baseball.

“I became a baseball fan in eighth grade,” he says. “I’d watch on TV and score games at home.” He felt he was already too old to start playing the game. “In hindsight, I wish I’d done it differently, but I decided I was going to just be a fan of the game.”

Nick Perigo
“I’m always going to use some sports metaphors in the classroom,” says Perigo, “because that’s my frame of reference.” Photo credit: Stacee Sledge

Meanwhile, as a member of the Boys and Girls Club, Perigo landed leadership opportunities that took him twice to Florida as a representative of the Club. He became a Club employee at 16 and worked there during summers in high school.

“When I was 18 and working at the Boys and Girls Club, they needed a coach for a sixth-grade basketball team. I never played a game of basketball in my life!” Perigo says, laughing. “But I had a blast. And it really reaffirmed the idea of teaching for me.”

Perigo applied to Western Washington University after graduating from Bellingham High School. “I’m a close-to-home kind of person,” he says, “and I figured, well, we have a great university right here.”

He began the coursework to be a high school math teacher but hit a snag when he reached multi-variable calculus.

“I needed to reevaluate,” he says with a laugh. “Someone said, ‘You could teach elementary school,’ and I said, ‘No way.’”

Perigo was still working at the Boys and Girls Club, in athletics, and volunteering to coach both basketball and baseball. He switched to a major in recreation with a minor in business administration — but teaching remained in the back of his mind.

After graduating in December 2009 — his father, a custodian at Western for 20 years, handed him his diploma — Perigo was appointed athletic coordinator at the Bellingham Boys and Girls Club.

Nick Perigo
Perigo coaches alongside childhood friend Jeremy Hirschkorn (left) and Inside Pitch owner Brandon Hundt (far right) in 2012. Photo courtesy: Nick Perigo.

His coaching also moved to a new level as he led a basketball team of eighth graders through an undefeated season, and then coached a 12U summer baseball team (many of whom he’d now coached in basketball and baseball for two to three years) to a state championship.

“So I said, ‘All right — I’m going to finish on that,” Perigo says of clinching the state title alongside co-coach Pat Check.

He set his sights on continuing with the Boys and Girls Club, with a goal to transition into executive leadership. He came very close to starting a graduate program in leadership at Gonzaga.

“And I don’t know exactly what it was, but I realized that I had to teach,” he says. He changed direction again and returned to Western to get his post-baccalaureate teaching certificate, with hopes of teaching social studies and coaching at the high school level.

An advisor knew the competition on that exact path would be extremely tough, and suggested he would find greater success and be able to stay here in Bellingham as a male teaching in elementary. After thinking about it and discussing with friends, family and colleagues, Perigo made the leap.

Around the same time, Perigo got a call from Brandon Hundt, owner of Inside Pitch, who wanted to know if he might be interested in coaching a new competitive baseball program, Cascade Crush.

Nick Perigo
Perigo has been involved with the Bellingham branch of the Boys & Girls Club since becoming a member at age 14 and working for the organization for many years. Photo courtesy: Nick Perigo.

“I tell you what,” Perigo says, smiling. “Getting a call from a guy who played baseball in the minor leagues, to help coach with him is one of the more flattering things I’ve ever experienced. Brandon was head coach and Jeremy coached, as well.”

Flash forward five years later and 14 kids that were on Perigo’s first Crush team are now seniors in high school — some of the same kids Perigo coached in his early days at the Boys and Girls Club. And 10 of them are heading to college athletic programs this fall; nine playing baseball (including Austin Shenton), and one playing football (Taylor Rapp).

He’s modest about his part in their success. “I just feel so fortunate that I got to be along for that ride,” he says. “Here were these phenomenal kids who were so coachable; I hope I imparted something to them.”

Perigo completed his student teaching at Bellingham’s Lowell Elementary in June 2013, and then moved to Silver Beach Elementary as a replacement for a teacher on maternity leave; he was offered a permanent spot the following year.

Always one to challenge himself and look ahead, Perigo started a master’s degree at Western in January of 2015 and will do an internship at Silver Beach with principal Nicole Talley.

He tells a story from his high school days when he interviewed his principal, Steve Clark, for a writing project. “He asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I said, ‘At some point, I want to take your job.’”

Nick Perigo
As both a coach and teacher, Nick Perigo is putting his leadership skills to the test while working on a master’s degree in leadership from Western Washington University. Photo credit: Stacee Sledge

Perigo likes to be busy and continues to coach Crush. He’s also added sports officiating to his list of passions, working football games at the Boys and Girls Club and varsity high school matches.

Unsurprisingly, he often uses sports themes in the classroom, to great effect. For instance, every student in his class this spring — including those not interested in sports — enjoyed using March Madness brackets to learn about statistics.

“I work hard to get to know each individual kid,” Perigo says, “I have 27 unique students in here, and I work hard to get to know each individual kid. At the same time, I’m going to use some sports metaphors — that’s my frame of reference.”

Considering the success he’s helped direct on so many fields over the years, it’s clearly a fantastic approach.

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