Von Lehe says goodbye to Medical Lake High School after 20 years
On the last day of school, Medical Lake High School teacher Val Von Lehe sits at her desk as the bell rings, signaling the end of the 8 a.m. class. Her students walk in and give her hugs, saying that they will miss her.
Just as the students are about to leave, Von Lehe tells them to have a good summer and "This is going to be the last time you'll hear it. So be safe and don't be -."
"Sorry," the students say back. Many of them go up to her and give her hugs before they leave.
Von Lehe, who has taught at Medical Lake High School for the last 20 years, will be retiring from the profession.
Von Lehe said it was timing. She had planned on retirning in 2011 but decided to "hold on for a few more years."
"(Now) I just kind of feel like I'm ready to start a new chapter," Von Lehe said. "I feel at peace about it. It's been a great ride, but it's time."
Although she said she is leaving the door open for opportunities, Von Lehe plans on publishing her health curriculum, working on the farm and helping take care of her mother.
Von Lehe graduated from Eastern Washington University with a bachelors degree in health. She had finished her student teaching in Medical Lake before moving to Yakima to teach at St. Joseph Grade School.
She began her tenure at Medical Lake High School in 1984. In the last 20 years, she taught biology, health, physical education, life sports, physical science, advanced health and health occupations.
In addition to teaching, Von Lehe has coached basketball, volleyball, softball, track, and golf at the junior high and high school levels.
Von Lehe went into education so she could coach. Through athletics, she learned a lot about herself and wanted to pass her knowledge to others whether it's in the classroom or on the basketball court.
"It's about teamwork and being a contributing member to society," Von Lehe said. "Be the best you can be and always give back. That's what I try to convey to all of my kids."
Medical Lake High School principal John McSmith said Von Lehe was one of the most dedicated teachers he has worked with, as well as one of the most intense people he's known.
"She wants success for everyone's world that she's in," McSmith said. "She will be missed."
Vice principal and athletic director Chris Spring said Von Lehe helped bring the girls' basketball program to a whole new level.
"She doesn't do anything halfway," Spring said. "With her it's both feet in the water. That's how she did her job as a coach and as a teacher."
For Von Lehe, some of her favorite memories was seeing her students grow up to be successful and have families of their own.
"I've got kids that I've coached who've become a college coach," Von Lehe said. "You don't go into this job to make money. You go into it to help kids become successful. That's the paycheck."
Student Rachel Lentz had Von Lehe as a teacher when she was a freshman. She said she had a lot of fun in her class.
"I learned a lot from her," Lentz said. "I still have my health notebook on my shelf at home."
When asked what she would miss the most about teaching, Von Lehe answered with two words.
"The kids," she said.
Al Stover can be reached at email@example.com.