SIDELINES: Jean Licari will be missed not only in the halls, but also on the field

Jean Licari succumbed to cancer after spending her entire 21-year teaching career at Federal Way. - Courtesy image
Jean Licari succumbed to cancer after spending her entire 21-year teaching career at Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy image

I’m going to be honest with you, there are good teachers, adequate teachers and bad teachers. There are teachers that really don’t like getting up every morning and spending the day teaching math, social studies or English to young students.

These teachers just don’t have that “something” which draws certain men and women into the teaching profession. There are teachers who just spend their eight hours a day, five days a week at school and don’t go the extra mile for their students.

I know it’s sad, but it’s nothing new. There are people in every profession that just do the work only for the paycheck. That’s just how it is.

Federal Way High School’s Jean Licari wasn’t one of those teachers. She was a teacher who had a calling into the sometimes unrewarding profession. Licari spent her entire 21-year teaching career as a math teacher at Federal Way before the 45-year-old died of a rare form of cancer called LMS, or Leiomyosarcoma, on Jan. 8.

The teaching awards read like a who’s who. In 2006, Licari was the recipient of the Carnegie Learning Distinguished Educator Award. But the one thing Licari was most proud of was a program she and her friend, Heather Wren, started a few years back at Federal Way.

Licari and Wren’s credit retrieval program was engineered to allow students with poor grades or attendance problems to graduate on time.

All students who entered the program had to sign a contract, and there are strict consequences for their actions: A third strike against them and they are out.

The program, which kicked off in 2008, has been instrumental in allowing students who wouldn’t have graduated to get their diplomas.

“This is one of the most rewarding things as a teacher I have ever done,” Licari said in a 2009 story in The Mirror.

But Licari didn’t just stop at doing a bang-up job teaching math to a bulk of Federal Way High School’s students. That wasn’t enough for her.

Licari also spent countless hours before, during and after school coaching the Eagle cross country team during the fall sports season and the Federal Way girls track and field team during the spring.

Just like teaching, the coaching profession can be without glory. But Licari brought passion, intensity and the urge to have her athletes not only get better on the athletic field, but also get better in the game of life.

Both of the sports Licari coached, cross country and track, are more about pushing your body to its maximum potential. They are a little different than more popular endeavors like football, basketball and baseball/softball, where the player with the most dominant physical ability usually excels.

Oftentimes, as a longer distance runner, it’s the most mentally-tough athlete who excels. And that’s where a coach like Licari made all the difference. She motivated, but didn’t alienate.

The loss of Licari will be a tough one for the Eagle academic and athletic programs.

Federal Way High School will host a service at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21 to celebrate the life of Licari. The service will take place in the school’s cafeteria and gym and the public is invited.

The Federal Way High School Foundation has also established a fund to help support the Licari family. Donations can be made through the Foundation’s web site, There is a link to designate funds to the Licari family.

For more information regarding the foundation or donations, contact Mike Minahan at (253) 945-5429 or or Rosemarie Burke at (253) 945-5404 or

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