Westmont Magazine Touched by a Teacher
One day last September, Greta Vriend Weaver ’54 received a completely unexpected phone call. Virgil Leih, a student from the first fourth-grade class she ever taught, left a message saying she was the most influential person in his life.
Now a pastor, Leih attended McKinley Elementary School in Santa Barbara nearly 50 years ago, where Greta spent two years teaching after graduating from Westmont. She remembers being a bit overzealous, as first-year teachers tend to be, taking her class bowling, meeting with students on Saturday and spending long afternoons in her classroom.
She didn’t particularly remember Leih, however (first row, second from left). She called him at his home, and they spent an afternoon on the phone catching up. In a recent sermon, Leih had talked about how much his fourth-grade teacher had influenced his life.
He explains, “I was a shy, insecure child. My family traveled a lot, and I hadn’t learned to read. Her class changed my life because she cared so much. She paid attention to me, spent hours with me after school, and school became interesting to me. I had a sense of confidence after that, a sense that I could do it. She cared about me.”
Virgil mailed a copy of the sermon tape to Greta, and she cried as she listened to it. It taught her an important lesson. “You never know with a child or any student what is going on inside them. You may not see immediate rewards, but the time you spend with children has effects.”
Greta had learned a similar lesson while at Westmont. She credits Lucy Campbell Duey, the director of the education courses, with inspiring her to teach and reach out to others. “Lucy recognized the potential in each one of us and pushed us to get there. She was such an example to us.”
Greta stayed at McKinley for two years before moving to Boston, Mass., and later to Portola Valley, Calif., continuing her work as a teacher. In 1964, she went back to school to receive her master’s degree from Stanford and was reunited with her roommate from Westmont, Suzie Royer ’54, who was also attending Stanford. Greta became interested in counseling and worked as a counselor and instructor at Chabot Community College in Hayward, Calif., for many years. One of her accomplishments was starting a program for international students at Chabot.
Her avocation is collecting and selling Korean and Japanese chests (called tansu) out of her home. She had long been interested in these pieces when she decided to make a business out of her hobby. She has traveled around the world and belongs to the International House of Japan in Tokyo.
Although she is semi-retired, Greta continues to work part time at Chabot. She realizes that her impact on students is the longest and most important legacy she will leave.