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2017 Barry Lehto

 2017 Candlelight Service Award

          Barry Lehto, a Bingham High School teacher from 1974 to 2009, was awarded the 2017 Candlelight Service Award at the 81st annual presentation of the Candlelight Christmas program at Bingham High School on December 18, 2017.   Since 1937 students at Bingham have been participating in this annual Christmas festival of music and lights.  Since 1975 it has been a tradition to honor someone at this program who has contributed outstanding service to Bingham High.  This award is known as the Candlelight Service Award. 

          Barry Lehto was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, a small town in Northeastern Ohio.  He attended Ashtabula High School where he played football, ran track and graduated with highest honors as the salutatorian of his class.  Four years later he received a B.A. in biology from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.  While there, Barry lettered in track as a pole vaulter and served as president of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta.  His senior year, he spearheaded a “teach-in” for fellow students about the Vietnam War, recruiting professors to educate them about the controversy surrounding the growing negative sentiment over U.S. involvement.  In fact, he did not attend his graduation ceremony due to the turbulence and demonstrations on campus related to the war.

           After graduation, Barry taught high school biology and coached football for three years in Ohio.  He took a break in the middle to work for a year as a research assistant in a microbiology lab at the CWRU Medical School—-valuable lab experience.  During the summer of 1972, Barry and his wife, Mary Kay spent 9 weeks traveling all over the western United States, a trip that convinced them that the West was the place to be.  He zeroed in on Utah for its spectacular scenery and weather and applied for teaching jobs in every district in the state, interviewing from Logan to Spanish Fork and Tooele to Manila.  Jordan District was the first to offer Barry a job in 1974.  Once he agreed and was informed that he would teach 2 classes of algebra, 2 classes of biology, 1 chemistry class and 1 physics class, he wondered if it was too late to go back to Ohio!  But when he visited the old Bingham High in Copperton, where he was assigned to teach, he discovered the special aura of that school and town.   He then mustered his courage and decided this was truly the perfect place to be a teacher.

          Several years later, Barry wound up teaching mainly chemistry and AP Chemistry, subjects he came to enjoy.  His goal was to make chemistry a challenging and rigorous course while at the same time, find ways to make it fun and easier to understand.  Quite typically 80% or more of his AP Chemistry students passed their AP exams which is well above the national passing rate of 55%.  Several students subsequently shared that they, too, used his techniques and examples to tutor friends in college.

          Barry loved involving students in their learning by preparing stimulating labs and exciting demonstrations.  He furthered his own education by getting his Masters’ Degree in Education in 1982, and by going to summer workshops and working at the U of U, learning creative ways to engage students.  Watching students respond when something would explode or change colors was enjoyable!   His goal was to teach problem solving by using a hands on activity approach. This became more challenging as class sizes grew from around 20 students to close to 40, but it never truly stopped his efforts.

          Barry was recognized for his efforts with a number of awards including:  a Certificate of Appreciation for valuable contributions to Bingham High School students by the Southwest Valley Chamber of Commerce (2001); Bingham High School Educator of the Month (December, 1995); Bingham High School Sterling Scholar Most Inspirational Teacher Award (1996-97);  Jordan School District Teacher of the Year (1985);  STAR Award for “significant contribution to the advancement and improvement of science education over and beyond the call of classroom teaching” by the National Science Teachers Association (1981);  Outstanding Work in Secondary School Sciences Teaching Award given by the Utah Science Teaching Association (1976).

          Science teaching was not all that Barry did for the students at Bingham High.  He coached football (head coach for the first freshman football team and later the sophomore team), was assistant track coach for field events, and was club sponsor for the Mountain Club.  The Mountain Club was, for almost 30 years, Barry’s most rewarding, yet challenging activity.  Outings included hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, canoeing, and rock climbing.  As many as 100 students per year engaged in this club, a club designed to promote a love and respect for the great outdoors.

          While at Bingham, Mr. Lehto served as science department chair, chair of the principal’s advisory committee and worked on a number of science curriculum projects for the state of Utah.  Early in his career, he created a chemistry curriculum that was a goal-based, criterion-referenced approach to chemistry.

          Barry retired in 2009, surviving 7 different principals and 3 over-crowding spin-offs of student populations into newer schools (West Jordan, Copper Hills and Riverton).  He always stayed loyal to Bingham and enjoyed the support from the students, parents and the community and believed it could never be beat anywhere else!

          Barry is married to his college sweetheart, Mary Kay.  They raised 2 children and are now proud grandparents of 5 “brilliant” students.  The Lehtos belong to the Church of the Seventh Day Recreationists and invite you to join them any Sunday morning for a hike into the spectacular Wasatch Mountains.



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2017 Barry Lehto