A “Hillbilly,” defined up here as an individual who attends Idyllwild School from kindergarten through eighth grade, has returned to school. Bob Leih, a teacher for 30 years and an Idyllwild resident for most of his life, is now the middle school (sixth- through eighth-grade) science teacher.
So now a third Leih has joined the Idyllwild School faculty. Both his father, Lewis, and mother, Marilyn, taught at Idyllwild School.For 28 years of his 30-year career, Leih has been teaching in the Hemet Unified School District. He started at Hamilton Elementary. After about 12 years, he moved on to Bautista Creek Elementary and now returns to his home.
“The schools are very similar because they are small schools where the teachers know all the kids and want to take responsibility for all them, too,” Leih said, smiling. At teachers’ meetings or even lunch, faculty members at these schools discuss their students’ progress.
“If a student struggles in my class, I’ll ask [a colleague] if he is struggling ‘in your class’ and should I try a different approach?” he said. “We’re constantly working together at Idyllwild School and the kids get attention to a much greater degree.”
When he and Lynne, his wife, returned to Idyllwild after he got hired at HUSD, Leih chose Hamilton Elementary. “I was very close with many of the faculty,” he said. “My father had been a teacher and principal there for 19 years. They were good family friends.”
The Leihs have four children — Kindra, Amy, Jonathan and Josh — all Hillbillies, too. But as they started high school in Hemet, Leih felt it would be a good time to transfer schools and be working in Hemet, which is why he began at Bautista Creek.
“I could take them to school and bring them home,” he explained. “It was good car time and all were involved in afterschool activities from choir, dance to sports.”
Teaching in Hemet also allowed Leih to be involved in other activities. For example, he served as Hemet High’s assistant junior varsity volleyball coach for several years.
After 16 years at Bautista Creek, an elementary school, Leih is teaching middle school at Idyllwild and able to fully apply his science major for the first time, one of his passions.
“The community of Idyllwild is an outstanding living laboratory,” Leih said. “It’s a living, breathing, unique ecosystem in Southern California. All I have to do is explain science in my hometown.”
Besides the classroom instruction, Leih also has inherited responsibility for the three middle school off-site trips — Joshua Tree, Astrocamp, and Catalina Island. He has gotten much help from his predecessor, Lenore Sazer, who retired at the end of the 2014 school year. They worked closely over the summer after Leih was selected to replace her and continue.
But the classroom is Leih’s other love. “One of my big goals and passions is to build great school relationships with students, their parents and the staff I work with,” he stressed. “The more the three of us communicate and work toward some trusting relationship, the more successful we’ll be educating the students.
He is not the only Hillbilly on the Idyllwild School faculty. Fourth-grade teacher Brennen Priefer also is a Hillbilly.
So far only daughter Kindra is pursuing an educational profession, but Leih doubts she will be at Idyllwild. While at a private school currently, he said he would not be surprised to learn she is headed to China to teach.