Steve Laue is retiring after 40 years of teaching in the North Marion School District

by: LINDSAY KEEFER - Steve Laue, who's retiring from teaching after 40 years, poses in front of a wall of student artwork completed in his class.Steve Laue is proof that you don’t have be born and raised somewhere to call it home.

The middle school art teacher has called North Marion home for the past 40 years, and, while he’ll still live three miles down the road, he has finally decided to retire.

“I’ve been here since I drove off the campus at Oregon State,” he said.

Originally from Coquille, Laue was drawn to the district because of a new building being specially made at the high school for career technical education.

“That’s what attracted me to North Marion,” he said. “That building opened the first day of school after New Year’s Day 1975. There was nothing in there but bare wall, a sink, a clock and power. I was blessed to be able to equip that place.”

From that building he taught drafting to grades 6-12, until North Marion Middle School was built in 1981.

While in the CTE building, which was then shared with the district office, he met his future wife, who was the curriculum director’s secretary.

“We kept it real quiet; everyone was surprised when we announced our engagement,” Laue chuckled.

Laue and his wife, Kathy, married in March 1977 and moved to Hubbard, where they raised their two daughters in North Marion schools.

Over the years, he has taught students woodworking, metal working and even brazing.

“People ask me, how are you able to get middle school kids to stand still and do that work?” Laue said. “It requires patience. But it’s worth it when they get done with a project and you see them really shine. I’ll never forget when the moms and dads will come and pick up (their students’ work) with tears rolling down their cheeks, saying, ‘Wow, look what you’ve done.’”

With budget cuts about 15 years ago, his position was eliminated and he shifted to be a special education teacher for a year. Then the position of design and applied arts teacher popped up, and he jumped at the chance to get back to doing his passion. This new class brings students through different art mediums, from drawing to clay.

“The kids love the program, especially because it’s hands-on,” he said. “I always liked their reaction of, ‘Look what I can do’ or ‘I didn’t think I was good of that.’ As a teacher, that brings me a lot of satisfaction.”

Laue has had a lasting impression on many of his students. In fact, one calls him every Christmas morning, including one time when he was in Kuwait with the military.

The connection with students has come full circle when he’s been able to teach those students’ children — and sometimes grandchildren.

“The kids have been great, the community has been fantastic,” he said. “Each little town that feeds this school is made up of a community of families, but this school is the center of it all — it’s all about the kids. We don’t say we’re from Hubbard or Donald or Aurora or Butteville. We say, ‘I live in North Marion.’”

Those connections have created a positive atmosphere where students feel comfortable calling him Grandpa Laue, something he calls “an honor.”

“He’s the kindest gentleman to ever walk through these doors,” custodian Mel Thayer said about Laue. “He’s a role model not just to the students, but to the teachers too. He’s just here to nurture.”

Laue has stayed active all these years, even after his wife died in 2008, and he said he will find plenty to do upon retirement.

“Forty just seemed a good number,” he said about his reasoning for leaving now. “I’ve wobbled on the idea so long. It’s going to be hard to give it up. But I have a lot I’d like to do.”

That includes spending time with his grandchildren, traveling and woodworking. Woodturning is his favorite pastime, and he’s a member of the Northwest Woodturners Association. He even started retirement just a little bit early, leaving school Thursday to attend a national symposium in Phoenix, Arizona.

He relishes the fact that he was able to introduce his love of industrial arts to his students.

“I planted the seed in middle school,” he said. “I’ve always loved woodworking. Bowls and boxes are what I do the most.”

He planted a seed of positivity and love that will hopefully live on after he leaves.

“No one has ever given more to this school, no matter if they’ve given millions of dollars, than Steve, because he’s given something more valuable: time,” fellow teacher Scott Meaders said.

But Laue insists it’s because it was always meant to be.

“Just think about it: I was born in 1950 and North Marion was built in 1950,” he said. “I’ve been so blessed. This district has been so good to me. I’ve been so fortunate.”

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