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GENE BECHTHOLD – CHURCHILL JUNIOR HIGH

Gene Bechthold has served as an English and physical education teacher and coach for four decades. During this time, he has had an indelible impact on countless students both in the classroom and afterhours, including more than 20,000 who have participated in his intramural program. Bechthold has uniquely combined his passion for competition and teaching and coupled these with creativity and thousands of volunteer hours to create and administer a unique program that will have a profound impact on others for generations to come.

Bechthold’s intramural program is one of the best organized and innovative of its kind. It combines numerous diverse interests to attract a broad range of students, expand horizons and build community through common experience. The program includes weekly events ranging from one-on-one basketball and ping pong to darts, limbo, bowling, table-top football, trivial pursuit and even a paper airplane flying competition in the school’s auditorium.

Most Churchill Jr. alumni, even from decades ago, know Bechthold by name and can recount at least a half dozen intramural events they competed in, a friend they made through the program or lessons they learned from Bechthold. This was true with an experience I had a couple of years ago in New York. The following is a letter I sent to Mr. Bechthold after this experience:

Dear Mr. Bechthold.

I had an interesting experience yesterday that warrants sending you a letter of appreciation. I was one of your students and a benchwarmer on your volleyball team more than 25 years ago. I am now a partner in a Salt Lake City communications firm. While traveling on business this week, I scheduled a meeting with the partner of a New York firm, Mark Newman, who is a friend of a friend in the industry. As we were getting acquainted, we discovered we grew up less than a mile from each other and, although we weren’t there at the same time, we both attended Churchill Jr. High.

One of our strongest and most enduring memories was of your classes and intramural program, which we spoke about fondly and in great detail. Both of us remember your pep talk regarding the pressure of how competing in intramural finals for darts or ping pong would prepare us to shoot free throws in a state championship game or, more importantly, to have the confidence necessary to perform in the clutch when the stakes were high in business or with a family challenge.

While we didn’t fully comprehend your words at the time, we both acknowledged that this has been true in our lives. I am so grateful for the extra and often thankless hours you expended to teach me and many others this important life lesson and also for the opportunity participate in so many fun and diverse activities. I wish there was a way to make your intramural program a mandatory component of the junior high school experience. I hope you are well and that continue to do good work. Please accept my profound gratitude for the indelible impact you have had on my life and the lives of countless others.

With appreciation and fond memories,
Chris Thomas
As you can see, Mr. Bechthold represents the very best in Utah education and would be very deserving of the Teacher Feature honor.
-Chris Thomas