“I found a job in Wyoming because I was in Wyoming when I graduated from college. I feel very fortunate to have landed here and to have had two separate careers with the same employer.” Bob Leach has the longest running tenure of any teacher in the history of the Greybull school district. He will retire the end of July this year after 42 years of service.
Leach was born in Illinois but lived most his life in St. Louis, Michigan. In 1973 he earned his bachelor’s degree from Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was accepted into the master’s program at the University of Wyoming. He earned his master’s degree in chemistry and physics in 1975.
While in college Leach switched his course of study from pre-med to teaching. He had started working with a youth group of teenage kids. “Teaching became a calling for me,” he said.
Coming to Greybull the fall of 1975 his first assignment was teaching chemistry, physics and advanced math. He filled the shoes of Nellie Fletcher who had recently retired after 30 plus years of teaching. During his years of teaching he also had stints as a class sponsor and student council advisor. He worked with the JETS and photo clubs and was assistant swimming coach to Lonnie Koch. He also performed in school musicals for many years along with working on production crews.
In addition to teaching during his first years in Greybull, Leach also worked at Burlington Northern Railroad during the summers, nights and weekends. He was a relief clerk in data entry using key punch machines. Train and car movement information came in on key punch cards. The cards were then transmitted via telegraph to move along with the trains. Leach became intrigued by computers at that time.
In the early 1980’s he began thinking about how computers could be used in teaching. Eddie Johnson was still teaching then and the two of them started working on networking projects within the district. They spent several years connecting the middle and high schools using underground conduit between the buildings. They were moonlighting; drilling holes with 2 foot long drill bits through the thick walls of the old high school to run wires from room to room. At the same time the government provided a series of grants known as Goals 2000 that offered seed money to put computers in schools. By qualifying for those grants they were able to introduce the first computers to the students and staff in Greybull.
For many years, after the introduction of the computers, Johnson coordinated the K-8 program and Leach handled grades 9-12. Leach took over the entire program after Johnson’s retirement in 2005 and became the full-time technology coordinator. Leach said, “I had little external training, I mostly forged ahead with the leeway to pursue possibilities and do it as part of the job.” He has seen the program evolve as the years progress and the kids become more tech savvy.
Looking back over his career his most memorable moment came when he arrived in Greybull for his interview in 1975. When he and his wife Teresa first drove over the viaduct and saw the abandoned refinery Teresa cried saying, “I can’t live here.” Teresa works in the Greybull school system as the ELL para educator. Their daughter Tabitha also lives in Greybull.
The funny moments came in the day-today stuff. He’s always thought humor was part of working with the kids. “They serve up stuff constantly that you can have a light hearted exchange over,” Leach said.
Leach said the most challenging part of the job working with computers is “they tend to want things their way. To try to get a system to do what you want, you have to figure out how the computer wants it done.” Patience and perseverance play a big role in working with computers day in and day out.
Why retirement? “Ours might be the last generation where the golden years actually mean what they say,” Leach said. He wants to remain open to the possibilities of what lies ahead. “Wyoming has a great pension plan and I want to enjoy it while it lasts.”
Leach has four grandchildren, a cabin in Michigan and his son Sean in Dallas. “I want to hit all the national parks between here and Dallas,” Leach said. He loves to travel and is making plans to continue his annual trips to Michigan along with many jaunts to new destinations after his retirement this summer.