It Was a ‘Kuhl’ 49 Years at St. Bede School

Outlook Valley Sun file photo
Barb Kuhl, who was a teacher and administrator at St. Bede School for 49 years before retiring, is pictured with former Principal Ralph Valente.

Barbara Kuhl, who has graced St. Bede School’s campus for nearly half a century as a teacher and administrator, received a “drive-by” retirement celebration last week as the school year was coming to a close.
Teachers, families, and even the local fire department came by to pay their respects to Kuhl, who began her teaching career on campus in the 1971-72 school year.
At the drive-by event (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) honoring the longtime educator, St. Bede teachers wore custom “I’m Kuhl” facemasks as a tribute for the longtime teacher, who concluded her 49th year at the school.
“One of Barb’s greatest contributions to St. Bede School is how well she knows each child — inside and out, as a whole,” said Ralph Valente, the school’s former principal. “And she brought out the best in every one of them. When Barb’s students left St. Bede, they were prepared academically, socially and spiritually.”
Valente and Kuhl worked in tandem as the school’s principal and vice principal from 1987-2019.
“Ralph and I worked as a team,” Kuhl said. “The school had [previously] always been run by nuns.”
St. Bede, a K-8 Roman Catholic school of 250 students, has consistently ranked in the top 5% of all Los Angeles-area Archdiocese schools, and the majority of teachers have been there for at least 16 years.
“We’re a small Catholic school; it’s like a second family,” Kuhl said. “We have a lot of second- and third-generation families that keep coming back, and I think that’s a testament to a good school.”
Added Valente: “Creating a sense of family is very important to Barb. She really pushed the idea of the St. Bede family. Just because you graduate or leave, doesn’t mean you’ve left the family. Any time there was a funeral for a member or close relative of someone from St. Bede, Barb made sure the 8th grade class attended the funeral to represent the school. She wanted those families to know St. Bede School was there for them.”
And St. Bede has been part of Kuhl’s family even prior to her becoming a teacher and coach. She grew up in La Cañada Flintridge and attended St. Bede as a student, graduating in 1962. She matriculated to Immaculate Heart High School in Los Feliz, where she competed in four varsity sports — tennis, basketball, volleyball and swimming — before graduating in 1966. She then attended Cal State L.A., where she earned her bachelor’s degree and teaching credential, and also played collegiate basketball.
She returned to the St. Bede campus in the fall of 1971, first as a coach before the nuns hired her as a teacher.
“They gave me a job for $400 a month and my dad said, ‘You can’t live on $400 a month,’” Kuhl quipped.
“She was a great teacher and a really special person,” said LCF Mayor Michael Davitt, who was an 8th grade student of Kuhl’s in the 1978-79 school year. “She respected the students. She was very willing to listen and engage. She did a really good job.”
Kuhl, who is essentially a lifelong LCF resident, has deep ties to the community. She coached and taught tennis lessons to youths and adults at the La Cañada Flintridge Community Center (formerly known as the La Cañada Youth House), she continues to be involved with the La Cañada Valley Beautiful awards committee, and was a recipient of the prestigious Les Tupper Award for her work with the Builders Club.
“She’s an incredibly faithful leader,” Valente said. “I’ll never forget the morning of 9/11. I was stuck on the freeway and got to school late. When I arrived, all the students were walking out of the school building. I said to Barb, ‘Where are they going?’ She said, ‘We’re going to church. We need to pray.’ And she was exactly right. I know that had a tremendous impact on every student at St. Bede School at the time.”
And her students seemed to be among her biggest fans.
“Ms. Kuhl’s motto — ‘Be good’ — is something that will remain in my heart wherever life takes me,” said 8th grader Lauren Larson. “It’s something she said at the end of every school day, a simple reminder to be our best.”
Echoed Caroline Bender, a 2011 graduate: “I loved that she was so committed to St. Bede for so many years and had such a positive influence on so many students.”
“Barb always says, ‘Be good and bring love into the world’ and she’s always done exactly that,” Valente said.

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