Friday, April 12, 2024

Bill Lemei Will Wish Coronado High a Bittersweet Goodbye and Leave a Legacy of a Love for Physics

Coronado High School (CHS) has seen Bill Lemei stroll the halls of the 500 building wearing his iconic graphic tees adorned with slogans like “kindness matters” for over twenty-three years. Now, as the first semester of the 2023-2024 is coming to an end, so too is Lemei’s time at CHS coming closer to its end.

Lemei’s Islander legacy includes being a CHS graduate to now having long been the beloved College Prep and Advanced Placement Physics teacher.

However, he wasn’t always climbing ladders and explaining velocity to students. Lemei was a college dropout in the 1960s who then went into business by self-studying accounting. His second business venture was a chain of flower shops in Los Angeles. He later sold the flower shops, which led to his wife Carol and him investing in a printing business in San Diego.

After a mid-life vacation, Lemei began his athletic career as a soccer coach for students.  While coaching he was also tutoring students in math. Lemei found a love for teaching and decided to get his college degree to secure a teaching credential. With these new certifications, Lemei soon became a math teacher at CHS in 2000.

“I didn’t want to [teach physics]. I tried to avoid it. The principal at the time needed someone to teach AP Physics B and there was no one immediately available as it was a hard position to fill. He’d heard I had a slight recreational hobby interest in physics and asked me if I wanted to teach AP Physics,” says Lemei. When teaching schedules for the next year came out, he was set to teach AP Physics, even after his slight pushback, along with algebra classes.

Lemei adds, “[Teaching physics] turned out to be a really good thing that I resisted. It didn’t seem like it was good for me but turns out it was good for me.”

Being at CHS for over twenty years has given Lemei many memories on which to reminisce. Lemei says, “My best memories are all about students and colleagues. I remain in awe of just how wonderful that group is collectively. It’s hard for me to believe that in public education a place like Coronado High can still exist — the quality of the teachers here, and there are some really talented people here.”

Many students have considered Lemei’s course to be an “Intro to Philosophy” class, and Lemei would wholeheartedly agree. The creative and insightful questions shared during instruction lead each person to thinking about how the world truly works, which, for Lemei, “is exciting and wonderful in a very deep sense.”

One recent student of Lemei’s, a CHS Class of 2022 graduate, who is now a sophomore studying physics at The Ohio State University shared, “I took physics with Mr. Lemei in the first semester of my senior year. Going into senior year I hadn’t decided what I was going to study in college, but by the end of the semester all of my applications read ‘physics major.’ Mr. Lemei was inspiring as both a teacher and a role model. He encouraged us to be our best selves and to aspire to great things, and I am glad I got the opportunity to take a class with him.” [Editor’s Note: this quote came from my son who I knew had been inspired by Mr. Lemei so I asked him to share his thoughts for this article.]

Students are checking off the days until semester one finals, but they are also checking off the days till Lemei’s apprehensive retirement. Lemei admits he doesn’t know what will fill the void of not teaching in his retirement, but excitedly looks forward to the “blank canvas” of his future.

CHS will be losing a teacher who holds an intense fervor for learning and love of sharing the knowledge of physics. The absence of Lemei on campus will leave big shoes to fill, but, nevertheless, Islanders wish him a happy goodbye and good luck in his retirement.


Maria Laguna
Maria Laguna
Maria Laguna is student at Coronado High School and has lived in San Diego her whole life. She is an officer to numerous clubs on campus, including: Feminist Club, Creative Writing Club, and Activism Book Club. Maria is also very involved with community service. Her passions include fashion, reading, writing, and travel. She shows her love of literature by being a Coronado Public Library volunteer in her free time and working on her own novella. She has always loved doing activities that let her express herself creatively. Maria plans to study fashion and writing after graduating from Coronado High in 2024. Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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