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Former Whittell High teacher is mourned by students, colleagues

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune
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Twenty-nine years, 10,000 lives.

That’s Maxine Atherton’s legacy.

In the entrance to George Whittell High School, posters hang in the commons. They’re covered with thoughts students and faculty wrote to honor Atherton, a former teacher who died Friday.



“You were the most inspirational teacher I ever had,” Daniel King wrote. “I am a better person and student because of you.”

Atherton taught English and history at Whittell for 29 years.



On one poster, a red heart was inscribed with: “29 years, 10,000 lives.”

Whittell teacher Lindsay Wines said students calculated that Atherton influenced approximately 10,000 lives in her years at the high school. And those lives weren’t just students.

Atherton always asked Wines about her children and even kept their picture on her desk, though she only taught them for one year. Wines said Atherton always became personally attached to her students.

“As a parent, if a teacher impacts my child, it impacts me,” Wines said.

Before coming to Whittell, Atherton already had spent 11 years teaching.

“It was more of a calling than a job,” said Whittell teacher Larry Reilly. “This is a woman who taught over 40 years ” that’s impressive.”

Whittell teacher John Summers said that every morning when he came to work, he would see Atherton’s classroom light on with her door open, where she would be preparing for her day.

“She was a Whittell Warrior,” Summers said. “More than that, she was a warrior in education.”

Atherton’s husband, Patrick Atherton, said she was convinced teaching was her calling.

On one of the posters, Isabel Concha-Foley described how Maxine Atherton pushed her students: “I am so glad to have taken World History as a freshman because I got to experience having you,” she wrote. “It was a challenge, but I’m glad you were there to help me through it.”

Atherton taught for so long that she began teaching her former students’ children.

Former student Kevin Kjer said he had her for a teacher from 1983 to 1985, and his son Kyle had her, too.

“She got things out of you that you didn’t know you could give,” Kjer said.

Even with all the time Atherton gave to her students, she was devoted to her sons, Robert and David, Patrick Atherton said. At all their sporting events, she never could sit in the stands. She always would be pacing up and down the sidelines, he added.

“She had to be down there,” he said, “right there, a part of the action.”


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