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1983: Still a voice of reason

Not every public school teacher knows what it’s like for a man to show up to class during school hours offering to perform a healing. But Kathy Mohr still remembers her experience.

“This guy came and he knocked on my door and he said ... ‘I’m a faith healer. I can heal your voice,’” Mohr says, recalling the story decades later from her Central Point home. “He just showed up at my classroom.”

Mohr declined because she had a classroom of students waiting for her, she says. And Mohr’s choices in life show that nothing — not even the quiet voice the stranger offered to heal — is able to pull her away from teaching.

Mohr, whose career spanned about 32 years, says she “always” knew that she wanted to teach for a living.

“This is something I wanted to do,” she says. “And I had my family’s support and my husband’s support, and I just persisted.”

A major car crash threw her dream — and in the immediate aftermath, her survival — into uncertainty the summer after she graduated from Ashland High School. She sustained head and brain injuries and both lungs collapsed. Her vocal cords had been crushed against the steering wheel, leaving her voice with a fraction of the force it once had.

The 1983 issue of Our Valley, which came out 14 years after the crash, told about how Mohr fought through some difficult years to overcome obstacles. The injury to her vocal cords appeared as if it would end her teaching dreams.

When she was partway through her degree at Southern Oregon State College, Mohr was told she couldn’t continue as a teacher because they thought students wouldn’t be able to hear her voice.

Dr. Kenneth Sublette, one of her doctors, spoke up for her.

“Kathy can do whatever she wants to do,” Mohr says, recalling his words. “She can do it.”

The college relented but required her to use an amplifying system so her voice could be heard. She used it only once, though, because she didn’t like it.

She started as an instructional assistant at Talent Elementary School, getting her first experience leading the classroom on her own as a substitute.

She was hired next at Phoenix Elementary as a second-grade teacher. Later, she taught sixth grade, and then third grade at Orchard Hill, one of the first staff to work at the school when it opened in 1983.

“So I’m old,” she jokes.

When Mohr recalls how people doubted her ability to teach after the crash, she does so without anger or bitterness. Much more apparent is her smile as she talks about her classrooms and students.

“I just like being with the kids,” she says. “I just liked the idea of being with kids and teaching them and helping them learn. I always loved reading and math, so it was kind of fun to help children get that same love.”

“She didn’t let (the crash) be the final answer,” says Dave Mohr, her husband. “To her, it was basically a challenge. And that’s always been her approach to life.”

Kathy Mohr was known to many as a strict teacher — she laughs remembering an instance when a student at Phoenix Elementary told her principal, James Buck, that Mohr had “yelled” at him for playing disruptively outside her classroom.

Today, 36 years after Mohr’s story ran and 50 years after her accident, she is retired. But the Rogue Valley native is still teaching, going into classrooms to talk about safety around dogs as a volunteer with the Humane Society. She also leads vacation Bible school for the First Presbyterian Church in Central Point and at her kitchen table, home-schools her three grandsons two days a week.

She and her husband have considered leaving the valley before, but their son and his children kept them here. Mohr was featured in the Mail Tribune a number of times, including being voted Best Elementary School Teacher in the Best of Our Valley.

“It’s always nice to see someone who didn’t take no for an answer,” she says. “I think it’s good for kids to see that you can overcome different obstacles, and that everyone has something that they have to deal with and just to show them that they can do that as well.”

You can reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Kathy Mohr looks at the 1983 issue of Our Valley, when she was featured as a young teacher. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune