Matthew Bemis
Matthew Bemis
BEAVERTON — Valley Catholic High School holds commencement for 88 seniors at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 7, at the school’s athletic center. Torben Billow is valedictorian and Matthew Bemis is salutatorian.

The classroom at the end of Valley Catholic’s second floor is not just a room — it’s a time machine. And history teacher Phil McQueen is the captain.

Every day, students look forward to being whisked away to another time and place. In their elective classes of Civil War, World War II and Vietnam, they have dressed in Civil War uniforms and shot Civil War muskets and cannons. They have handled World War II rifles and worn authentic uniforms. They have met and listened to survivors of wars and the Holocaust. McQueen is a teacher who has made history come alive.

After teaching at Valley Catholic for 35 years, McQueen is preparing to retire in June.
“Phil has put his heart and soul into teaching,” says Ross Thomas, principal. “It seems to me that it’s a case study in what education ought to be.”

“I’ve really been blessed by our students, who have given me much more respect and affection than I have deserved, and my wonderful faculty team,” McQueen said. “I’ve met some very good people in a school system that offered me the academic freedom that I would have had nowhere else in the world.”

Thomas says that the “affection, fascination and admiration” that people feel for McQueen is not only a validation of the teacher himself, but of a whole way of education.

“The more you standardize the curriculum, the more you clip the wings of your teachers,” Thomas says. “You want to get people who have a lot of talent and you want to allow them to use their talent.”

Thomas says McQueen is not an anomaly at Valley Catholic. Several teachers are nearing 35 years at the high school, and many more have been there more than 20 years.

“Teachers stay because they can teach what they love,” he says. “John Innes has taught P.G. Wodehouse and Gerald Durrell to great popular acclaim, and those are not books that would be in a standard English class; they are books that he loves.”

When asked about his experiences in the classroom, McQueen echoes the theme of individuality as the key to student success. “Always being sincere and honest,” he said. “And making sure that, whatever you have students do, you’re keeping the individual in mind.”

Here are the graduates: Ryan Afranji, Seyoung An, Alexander Baek, Lavanya Bakshi, Lauren Bartholomew, Matthew Bemis, Mikaela Bernards, Torben Billow, Alexander Butz, Carter Buuck, Caroline Casale, Siyan Chen, Makenzee Cleveland-Aguirre, Megan Co, Erin Cochran, Allyza Concepcion, Joshua Curfman, Lillian D'Amico, Taylor Dean, Michael Dombrowski, Angela Dunham, Kimberly Duyck, Craig Fan, Rebekah Feldhaus, Ashley Ferris, Samantha Fisher, Addie Flemmer, Caroline Francis, Zeqing Gao, Grant Gard, Elijah Gavett, Rebecca Gould, Jarrett Gray, Alyson Heinen, Madeline Henningsen, Sean Hilken, Kelli Hoang, Sydney Hoeck, Annika Holstrom, Karina Jaroch-Gonzalez, Katharine Jesse, Jacob Kachmarek, Karina Karlin, Grayce Kelly, Clara Kiss, Mitchell Kovalev, Benjamin Krueger, Lindsie LaBonte, Philip Lam, Sophia Larrabee, Annabelle Larson, Michael Leslie, Shuanglu Li, Rachel Liening, John Magenheimer, Grace Mannen, Morgan McDougal, Liam Meagher, Esai Morales, Grace Nepokroeff, Hoang Nguyen, Theresa Nguyen, Tyler Nguyen, Willis O'Leary, Sawanya Patipatvasin, TianCheng Peng, Collin Pierce, Elena Ramirez, Cooper Roach, McKenzie Robedeau, Gabrielle Rosenthal, Taylor Roth, Lauren Shoemaker, Angelika Streinz, Alexander Sundermeier, Jonathan Tate, Gabe Taylor, Samuel Teague, Clarissa Tolan, John Tran, Samuel Troychak, Liam Walsh, Matthew Wanner, Cassie Weber, Erin Weinbender, Hannah Wilson, Chenyang Yu, Yanquan Zhou