Gateway: Sports

Math teacher, longtime runner McLean thankful for time at Peninsula High

Dan McLean, who has taught at Peninsula High School since 2008 and has enjoyed an illustrious competitive running career, is moving to Anacortes with his wife in August.
Dan McLean, who has taught at Peninsula High School since 2008 and has enjoyed an illustrious competitive running career, is moving to Anacortes with his wife in August.

Peninsula High School is losing a valuable member of its faculty.

Dan McLean, a math and AP economics teacher at Peninsula since 2008, is moving to Anacortes with his wife, Lindsay, in August for new career opportunities.

McLean, 34, grew up in Skyway and graduated from Kennedy Catholic High School in 2000. He attended the University of Puget Sound and, with the exception of one year in Seattle, has lived in Tacoma since 2000. McLean doubled majored in history and economics at UPS.

“I always approach both of those from an analytical point of view,” McLean said. “I wanted to make sure I was doing something where I was teaching that analytical point of view.”

Teaching math and economics at Peninsula turned out to be the perfect fit. A lot of times, McLean said, his students will ask him, “When am I ever going to use this in real life?” He counters with analogy they can relate to.

“I tell them, ‘If you’re watching football, remember the part in the game where they bring the bench press and squats onto the field in the middle of the game? They don’t do that, but why do football players lift weights? So they have the strength to do the game. That’s what you’re doing in the math class. You’re building up your ability to be analytical and problem solve and that’s what I like most.”

Math also teaches kids had to deal with frustration, and how to react to being wrong or making mistakes, occasionally.

Aside from being a teacher, McLean is also an accomplished runner. He was an All-American runner at UPS. He won the Class 3A 800-meter state title for Kennedy Catholic in 2000. He was second in the 1,500 at the 2004 NCAA Division III Indoor Championships.

More recently, he won the 12-kilometer Sound to Narrows in Tacoma in 2015, clocking in at 39 minutes, 38 seconds.

“I like that I’ve had good results spread out over a lot of years,” McLean said. “There’s no one race. One or two races from high school were the 4x4, 8x8, winning those state titles. Then college, getting All-American awards is important. Having a good marathon in the Twin Cities in 2008. A new 8K (personal record), to run a PR when I was 30, I thought that was a cool achievement, too. None of them are overwhelming achievements, but there’s some bright spots spread out.”

McLean runs nearly every day through the trails at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, which is close to his home in the Proctor District. He’s also a part of the recently-formed Tacoma City Running Club, which includes some of the area’s best adult runners.

“We didn’t feel like any of the local clubs represented Tacoma,” he said. “We felt like we had our own running and racing community that was strong here. When we do run a race, we have ‘Tacoma’ across our jersey.”

McLean’s wife has accepted a job in the medical field in Anacortes, while McLean found a teaching job with Anacortes High School. McLean said of all the things he’ll miss most about Peninsula High, the accepting nature of the students and staff is near the top.

“(I’ll miss) how uniquely positive and accepting the entire Peninsula community is,” McLean said. “It’s kind of hard to describe. Working at Peninsula, there’s a positive grip that works its way through all of the teachers and students. Everyone is just determined to always be better.”

One of his favorite stories from Peninsula was about a recent graduate, Matt Myers. Myers was the captain of the varsity boys soccer team, but he had another passion, too.

“He was the founder and president of the (trading card game) Magic: The Gathering club,” McLean said. “Those are two things you wouldn’t think of as going together. That’s the kind of place Peninsula is.”

While McLean will leave Tacoma behind for the time being, he said he’ll always consider himself a Tacoman.

“I’ll probably try to rock the (Tacoma) jersey as long as the team will let me,” he said.