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West Linn's homegrown teachers


Six WLHS teachers are also graduates

Homecoming is a time of returning. As students at West Linn High School participate in time-honored traditions before Friday night’s homecoming football game, West Linn alumni are making plans to meet with former classmates and return to their alma mater.

by: TIDINGS PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Alumni teachers at WLHS include Geoff Bingham (standing); seated, from left, Cathy Smith, Julie (Maycroft) McDevitt, Jessica Wray and Trevor Menna; and Jonathan Peachey (front).For six teachers at WLHS, though, homecoming is something they do every school day. They’re not just teachers — they’re WLHS graduates who now sit on the other side of the desk.

“We really have a tendency to grow our own,” Cathy Smith said. A 1981 graduate, she now is an instructional coordinator for the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, working at WLHS for the student services department.

“You want to give back to the place that made you who you are,” Geoff Bingham said. He is a 1999 graduate and a science teacher at WLHS.

Bingham and Smith work with four fellow alums: Julie (Maycroft) McDevitt, class of 1986, teaches science; Trevor Menne, class of 2000, is a learning specialist; Jonathan Peachey, class of 1999, teaches Spanish; and Jessica Wray, class of 2001, teaches English. Five of them were student teachers at WLHS, and four of six live in West Linn too. Each of them has worked at WLHS for the majority of his or her teaching career; one has never taught anywhere else.

WLHS is the place each of them wants to be.

“I loved being a student at WLHS,” McDevitt said. “I remember waking up happy every day because I got to go to school. I guess that’s why I became a teacher of high school students, and I still wake up every morning being so thankful that I’m at teacher at West Linn High School.”

“I can’t think of any other high school that has such beautiful grounds and learning environments,” Menne said. However, the high school the teachers work at is much different than the one they attended as students.

“I attended when the old building was still standing,” Smith said. “The roof leaked, and I’m sure it wasn’t a particularly healthy building.” That’s changed, she added: “What a beautiful facility! I love coming to work here.”

The only thing that still exists from his era, Peachey said, is the old entryway, the old commons and part of the gym.

In addition to beautiful new buildings, today’s students have more choices.

“The WLHS students have more opportunities than when I was a high school student,” McDevitt said. “More AP classes, more information at their fingertips (which can be both good and bad), more activities and sports to choose from.”

While students today enjoy a wide range of class choices that their teachers never had, the alumni rattled off a list of classes that are no longer offered. Woodshop and other vocational arts classes, typing and home economics topped the list.

The quality of WLHS teachers is one thing that has stayed the same. Each alumni teacher could share the name of one or more teachers who made a big impression. Druse. Hartmann. Seyfert. Valentine. Hunt. McDevitt herself even made Peachey’s long list of influential teachers.

“My teachers were what got me through, always, my inspiration and support,” Peachey said.

Wray attempts to model her own teaching after one former WLHS teacher, Anna Druse.

“It was a pretty big moment when I had her sub for me last year,” Wray said.

Because of their unique position within the school community, the alumni teachers are well positioned to offer students meaningful advice on how to thrive at WLHS and beyond. Asked what she would like to tell her former self, if she could travel back in time to her high school days, Wray’s answer perfectly illustrated the choices students have before them and the many turns their journeys may take.

“I know you’ll never believe this, but you’re going to teach English here someday,” Wray said she’d like to tell her high school self.

“Don’t stress it,” Smith would add. “Everything works out fine.”

The other teachers also had sage advice that rings true today.

“Be yourself,” Peachey said. “Perfection is an illusion. Don’t worry so much about image and what other people think.”

“Be nice to everyone all the time, even when you don’t think they deserve it,” McDevitt said. “You never know what someone else is going through.”

Bingham’s advice was straightforward: “Fill out a ton of scholarship applications.”

Homecoming celebrations culminate in a football game against Clackamas, starting at 7 p.m. Friday. A dance for students follows.