The San Lorenzo Valley lost a titan of teaching on Sept. 2. Rob Lahey, a beloved math teacher and member of the San Lorenzo Valley community, died of cancer. He was 55 years old.
Lahey began his career in education teaching math at SLV Middle School, and the following year he moved up to SLVHS. During his tenure in math education, his teachings ranged from remedial to precalculus. He also served on district leadership committees, as SLV Sunshine coordinator, performed in the SLVHS teacher band and guided staff gatherings.
In 2019, Lahey was selected as Educator of the Year by the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce. He met his wife, Jennifer, at SLVHS, and they had been married since 1997. Together, they had two children, Emily and Abby, who have attended SLVUSD schools since kindergarten.
Lahey led the math department for the past 19 years.
When he was honored by the Chamber, Lahey said that he had a hard time accepting the award as he felt that the entire department deserved acknowledgment.
“Math is a tough subject. I struggled with it. Your parents struggled with it. You struggle with it. The struggle is real,” he told the chamber. “It is your desire and perseverance in anything that shows your true character and whether you will succeed. It’s how you approach your struggles that will define you.”
Immediately following the announcement of his death, memories of his impact poured in from around the area, with former colleagues and students sharing remembrances of his time in the classroom. San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District Superintendent Chris Schiermeyer distributed a heartfelt tribute to Lahey, saying that his work as department chair “pushed past the walls of his classroom.”
“Through his leadership, math proficiency continued to rise. His work was defined with a smile and the drive to ‘Do the Right Thing’ for those he encountered,” Schiermeyer said. “He embodied the spirit of the valley; that it takes all of us working together to make a difference in the lives of the students we are entrusted with each day. Over 30 years it is hard to say how many people Mr. Lahey impacted positively, however, if you imagine a rock being dropped into a lake, the ripple effect it produces is the layering impact Rob has had on our SLV family and the surrounding community.
“To know Rob lived the life he wanted and was a person to be modeled after is comforting. There is solace in knowing he passed surrounded by his loved ones in the home he and (his wife) Jen created for their family. When Jen Lahey, Rob’s wife, was the principal of San Lorenzo Valley Elementary, a mural was painted that reads, ‘You are Loved.’ We find it fitting to end that Rob would want you to know ‘You are Loved,’ and we would collectively be saying back, ‘Rob, you are loved.’”
SLVHS Principal Jeff Calden worked with Lahey at SLVHS for six years but had been his district colleague since 2004. In his remembrance, Calden said, “Rob Lahey was one of a kind.”
“He was a great man, a great friend, and a great teacher,” he said. “You were lucky if Rob was your friend. And Rob went out of his way to befriend people. If you were new on campus, Rob Lahey was going to find your classroom or your office and not just welcome you, but find out a bit about you, and offer his support when you needed it. And Rob was the teacher who was everyone’s favorite teacher. He not only taught his students about math, he talked to them about life, music, Star Wars, how to make a good pancake, and whatever else helped him to build those positive relationships so necessary to being the kind of teacher we all want our kids to have. Rob is an SLV legend and we will miss him dearly.”
Kim Armstrong, Lahey’s former colleague, remembered his positive impact in the math community, an impact that will “live on for many generations with his colleagues, students, family, and friends.”
“As a fellow math teacher, I have been lucky to know Rob for the past 27 years as a wonderful, caring friend to all, a dedicated, excellent math teacher with infinite excitement for learning, and an outstanding, inspirational leader of our SLVHS Math Department,” she said. “Always an advocate for both teachers and students, he was beloved. His classroom was often the center of the school community, full of students and colleagues, before school, at lunch, during and after school. Everyone felt that Rob cared and listened to them with his whole heart and soul.”
Armstrong said Lahey would often make daily rounds on campus, checking in on fellow math department members, colleagues, office staff, counselors, administrators, custodians and campus supervisors.
“A true problem solver on so many levels, his expertise was sought after, admired and appreciated,” she said. “He leaves a gaping hole in the soul of SLVHS that all of those he helped inspire and empower will need to step up to fill, but it will take the efforts of many to fill his shoes. He has taught us all so many lessons, both in living and dying. Now it is time to put those lessons into practice in his honor.”
Former student Tanya Nessheim said Lahey was her favorite teacher at SLVHS. She had him for two math classes.
“My favorite joke of his was when he would start off a geometry lesson with, ‘So if a pair of isosceles triangles jump out at you on the street…’ He also asked my friends to run laps around the building to burn energy because they were being too chatty. It was so funny to watch them jog by the big window in the classroom a couple times.
“I appreciated how kind he was, always. He taught with compassion and lots of laughter, which made the time fly in his classes,” she said. “I hope his family and loved ones know how much he was loved in the SLV community. And I hope they have lots of happy memories to carry them through this difficult time.”
Memorial service information will be forthcoming from the Lahey family.