Steven Kryger’s Incredible Journey to M-A

6 mins read

Cover photo by Troy Atkinson

Steven Kryger is one of M-A’s athletic directors, lacrosse coaches, and math teachers. From being a first-generation college student, Ivy League graduate, Fortune 500 executive, and undercover cop, Kryger walked an exceptionally unique path to becoming a teacher. Yet, no matter his occupation, Kryger’s desire to help others has always been most important to him.

Kryger grew up in Staten Island, New York City, before moving to a suburb 45 minutes north of the city. From a young age, Kryger’s parents instilled the value of service in him. His father worked as a New York City firefighter and spent his days off working in his town’s volunteer fire department. Kryger followed his father’s footsteps in volunteer work. As a child, he helped orchestrate a new youth soccer league by stringing goals, preparing the fields, and coaching younger teams, and was an active volunteer at his church. He also spent a large portion of his upbringing playing sports. In high school, he played football and basketball but excelled especially at lacrosse.

Kryger performed well in school, despite not feeling a lot of community pressure to pursue higher-level academia. “Growing up, I had this general goal of college, but I didn’t know what it really meant. No one in my family had ever gone to college,” he said. However, the picture of college became clearer when schools started reaching out to recruit him for lacrosse. During the winter of his senior year of high school, Kryger committed to the University of Pennsylvania. “At the time, I didn’t even know that Penn was an Ivy League school,” he said. “All I knew was that it was a school that had a spot for me to play lacrosse, so I was like, ‘great’”.

Kryger started at Penn as a computer engineer because companies like Apple were releasing their first computers. However, after spending hours in the basement computer lab trying to solve long, complicated problems, Kryger decided that coding was not how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Unsure of what to do next, he transferred into Penn’s world-renowned Wharton School of Business because he met the required GPA and because of the school’s prestige. Kryger continued to do well in his classes even though, “At that time I still wasn’t completely sure even what business meant. All of my classmates had parents who were either executives or worked in finance, so they seemed to know what they were doing.” 

Kryger at his college graduation

After graduating from college, Kryger was still not sure what career to pursue. However, when a fraternity brother’s father offered him to join the executive training program at Macy’s, the nationwide department store company, he felt he couldn’t refuse. Just like that, he packed his clothes and embarked on a cross-country move to begin work in the Bay Area.

At first, he worked as a systems buyer for the company. Initially, Kryger loved his work. It was the first time that he had received a substantial paycheck, and he quickly excelled at his work. In just six months, he was promoted to sales manager at the Hillsdale branch. Kryger still cherishes the memory of buying his first motorcycle because it was the first major purchase he was able to make due to his hard work. But, as he continued to work as a sales manager over the following year, he started to enjoy his work less and less. “I started to feel that it just wasn’t fulfilling. It became very frustrating.” One morning, after getting in a fight with his boss on the phone, Kryger slammed it into the receiver and quit his job.

Not sure what to do next, Kryger looked into careers that allowed him to make a significant difference. He initially wanted to become an FBI agent but did not have the requisite law degree. Next, he looked into becoming a firefighter, but firefighters in the Bay Area spend most of their time handling medical emergencies rather than fighting fires, and Kryger just wanted to fight fires. Then it hit him: he wanted to become an Oakland police officer. Why Oakland? Because in the late 80s in Oakland, the crack epidemic was exploding, it had the single highest murder rate per capita in the United States, and Oakland P.D. was a model agency. “When I told my parents, they were not thrilled. To appease them, I told them that I was just going to be a police officer for a few years before going to law school, even though I knew that was not true,” he said.

Kryger (right) in his uniform. Digital Photo.

Kryger started as a patrol officer. The work was grueling and dangerous. “There was a lot of violence. Much more than there is today. It was this street corner against that street corner, and they would be warring against each other. And if we took down the head guy on the street corner, we were told to be careful driving through there, because it was gonna be a shoot out for the next two weeks until somebody takes control.” The violence never gave him pause because of the impact that he felt he was making, and the incredible people he worked with. “In a lot of ways, it was a great time to be a cop. There were a lot of bad people to put in jail. And there were certainly a lot of citizens that were very thankful for us putting the bad people in jail.”

As Kryger continued to work, he once again continued to excel. Eventually, the police department offered Kryger to join the elite street narcotics unit. The unit was composed of ten people. At any given time, eight of them would wear street clothes and two of them would be undercover. “We were assigned an area, and it was our job to clean it up, and to try to make those street corners and neighborhoods safer.” Kryger loved it. He had found his true passion.

Kryger’s partner applying pressure to his wound

However, everything changed one November morning. Kryger’s unit got a call that a recently released inmate from San Quentin was terrorizing his grandmother and nephew, while also selling drugs out of their house. Kryger’s squad scouted the location and prepared to enter the house with force, which was routine. However, as the battering ram smashed through the door, the drug dealer shot a round through the wall, hitting Kryger’s leg. The bullet pierced his femoral artery and his femoral nerve. If not for his squad members who immediately applied pressure to his geysering wound, he would have lost his right leg and likely his life. “I really felt like I was fighting for my life. If I passed out, I knew I would likely die.” While Kryger’s leg returned to functional form after successful surgery and extensive therapy, he was never going to be fit enough to rejoin the squad. 

Amidst the highly publicized incidents of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, Kryger was forced to reflect on his five years as a police officer. He wondered to himself, “What was I really like?” Kryger had long conversations with his former colleagues. When Kryger asked if he was at all like the cops on the news, every person that he talked to gave him the same, resounding answer: “Absolutely not.” “The vast, vast majority of the people in the Oakland P.D. were truly stand-up people,” Kryger said. “A cop took a swing at somebody that was already down on the ground, and two other cops grabbed the officer, pulled him up, and got in his face right there in front of everybody and said, ‘We don’t ever treat people that way.’”

Following his injury, Kryger entered Oakland’s occupational rehabilitation program which gave him career choices related to law enforcement. His former coworkers also gave him lucrative offers to return to the business world. But, “Helping other people was what drove me, it didn’t matter how much money I would make,” he said. So, he enrolled in San Francisco State’s teaching credential program.

Photo by Troy Atkinson

In 1996, Kryger started teaching math and coaching girls basketball at Hillsdale High School. In 2008, he came to teach at M-A and became the varsity boys lacrosse coach. He now teaches AS Algebra II and AP Calculus AB and serves as co-athletic director.

As a teacher and coach, Kryger has a reputation for being no-nonsense while still creating meaningful, personal relationships with his students. He said, “My motivation to coach and teach mostly comes from a couple of my high school teachers and my high school coach who greatly influenced who I became. They instilled in me a sense of accountability, responsibility, and intrigue. My high school coach pushed me beyond any limits I thought I had, both physically and mentally.”

As Kryger looks back on his winding life, he considers the idea his parents instilled in him as incredibly true: when one door closes, another opens. But more importantly, he remembers the importance of always helping other people.

Peter is a senior at M-A and is in his first year in journalism. He enjoys covering community and school issues as well as school sports events.


  1. Nice article -Great job! And we are very proud of your accomplishments, student, player and person. 🙂

  2. Great article! Well done! Great subject! Is that my son??!! Wow! What a thoughtful & varied career!!

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