Cal High says goodbye to 4 teachers


Photo by Bobby Naar

Biology teacher Julie Bitnoff, hanging with her skeleton friend, will remember her three-plus decades at Cal fondly.

Julie Bitnoff is retiring this year after 32 ½ years at Cal.

She previously taught at Pine Valley Middle School, but moved to Cal during the second semester in the 1983-1984 school year as her goal was to teach at the high school level.

Bitnoff’s favorite memories are of the students and staff she has had the privilege of working with during her years as a biology teacher.

One of these memories is of retired drama teacher Richard Hight, who would host staff and student plays, four of which featured Bitnoff.

Bitnoff said she always tried to inspire her students to care about the environment. She used to take kids to Catalina Island for three days to learn about conserving the environment, as well as cleaning the creek behind Cal on Earth Day.

Bitnoff noted that Cal has changed much over the years. When the school was smaller, the students and staff were like a family and the education system was much more laid back.

Now Bitnoff is impressed by how Cal has evolved.

“(Cal) has raised the bar on education and course offerings, as well as preparing kids for college,” she said.

When asked what she would miss the most, she simply stated,”The kids.” She then said she would miss all the interactions with students and staff.

Of course she will also miss explaining biology.

Bitnoff hopes that students will continue to become inspired to care for the environment. She’s really looking forward to retirement.

“I’m grateful of the environment that I got to teach in, and all the support from students, staff and the district,” she said.

Leslie Vilhauer

From traveling to the shores of Nice, France, to the cities of Toronto and New Orleans, English teacher Leslie Vilhauer has been on quite a journey.

Vilhauer looks to expand on that journey since retiring in mid-February after spending 12 years at Cal.

The main reason Vilhauer retired in the middle of the school year was because she hoped to dedicate more time to her family and connecting with her two daughters and her six-month-old grandson more often.

“Another one of the things I’m going to be doing is spending time with my mom because she’s 91,” Vilhauer said. “I just want to be around her some more and be able to be there for her.”

Vilhauer is also looking forward to pursuing her love of traveling.

“My husband and I love to travel and take long road trips, and we hope to eventually visit more countries in Europe sometime,” said Vilhauer.

A large portion of her past adventures around the globe have been because of her involvement in Rotary, an international service organization.Vilhauer’s active participation in Rotary has also been an inspiration for her involvement in Cal High Interact Club as a teacher adviser alongside AP Euro teacher, Scott Hodges.

“She supported us as a club and contributed through her ideas and her diligence,” said senior Bhavya Doshi, Vice-President of Interact. “She’s an incredible teacher and mentor.”

Vilhauer is still connected with her role as a teacher and says that she will dearly miss her days at Cal.

“I really enjoyed helping kids learn to write, read and wonder about the world,” Vilhauer said. “There’s something really rewarding about that.”

– Jessica Yuan

Laurianne Behrens

One of Cal’s longest-tenured teachers is retiring this week.

Laurianne Behrens began teaching at Cal in 1979 and now after 37 years she’s saying goodbye.

Behrens has worked with resource and special education students, and she’s very proud to say that she’s had students go on to become nurses, teachers, firemen, EMTs and even a meteorologist.

“It’s good to see students grow up and be productive members of society,” said Behrens, noting this has been one of her biggest accomplishments as teacher.

Behrens, who has worked closely with Greg Fortayon the past seven years, has seen Cal experience numerous changes over the year, but she’s noted the only thing that’s the same is the old gym.

If Behrens has any parting words for Cal students it’s this: “Take time, enjoy your years in high school and don’t be in a hurry to grow up.”

– Patrick Rettig

Trish Goldin

As the school year comes to a close, and as students eagerly shed their burdens for the summer, one beloved teacher will leave with all the best wishes for her students.

This year will mark the last of Trish Goldin’s career as Cal’s French teacher. Next fall, when students return to campus, Goldin will be anywhere but in the classroom.

Asked about what she enjoyed most about teaching, Goldin couldn’t help but express gratitude for her students.

“I love French and I love teenagers,” said Goldin. “They’re fun, they have a great sense of humor, and they’re very accomplished.”

Although the years spent as a teacher could not have been entirely easy, Goldin still carries the passion that she devoted to her students at the beginning of her career. Goldin said she still remembers the “spark” that inspired her to become a teacher.

“I started taking French in middle school, and my teacher asked me to teach a lesson one day,” said Goldin. “I loved it and I decided right then that I wanted to become a French teacher.”

Maybe it was because Goldin remembered that spark within herself as a young student, but when it came to her own students, she prioritized their concerns. Her main concern as a budding teacher was her student’s education, and she has learned throughout the years how important it is to listen to the struggles that a student may face.

“I think a good teacher is someone who enjoys what they do and appreciates the students,” said Goldin. “Someone who is patient and has a good sense of humor.”

Goldin reminisced on her most memorable moments as a French teacher to be when she visited France with her students in 1997 and 2005.

When asked what advice she would give as a retiring teacher, Goldin didn’t cease to mention her students.

“As much as you can, love your students as if they were your own family,” said Goldin. “Be dedicated, be patient, and listen to their concerns.”

– Rebekah Cha