No Debate

Some lucky students remember a teacher who really made an impact during their school years.

For many Federal Way students, her name is Lois Gorne.

“With Gorne, it’s not a three-year deal,” said Wade Craig, a former student of Gorne’s who attended Federal Way High School in 1981.

Craig should know.

After 20 years, Gorne remains a close personal friend, the godparent of his child and an important influence on his children’s education.

“Thanks to Gorne, my children and live theater are not strangers to each other,” he said.

Teaching at Federal Way High for the past quarter century, Gorne leads speech, drama and leadership classes. She is also an active participant in school athletics and was even the cheerleader adviser for a year.

“I approached cheerleading the same way I do speech and drama,” she said. “I sat high up in the stands, took lots of notes and we critiqued their performance afterwards. I thought they’d riot at first, but they got used to it.”

For Gorne, teaching just comes naturally, Craig says.

“Gorne doesn’t think she’s doing anything special, but she lives, breathes, eats, sleeps teaching and her students,” he said. “While she’s directing the school’s four plays, for instance, she’s often there from early in the morning until 10 or 11 at night. Because of her example, her students put in the time also. And they excel because they want to do that for her.”

In her time at the school, Gorne has developed both the school’s speech and debate teams into strong, perennial competitors. In 1981, the team won its first state championship. Since then, the school’s teams — which compete with up to 60 of the state’s largest schools — have won 10 additional state championships, placing second yet another four times.

The speech and debate team students, along with Gorne, travel most weekends from November through March, heading off to competitions as far off as Chicago.

Also under Gorne’s direction, Federal Way High School students put on four plays each school year. The productions, however, are not the usual high school dramas.

Bill and Kathy Harris are friends and former colleagues of Gorne who have attended many of her plays over the years.

“The students are so well prepared. They stay in character. They’re not nervous and silly,” Kathy Harris said. “The sets are terrific. She expects a lot from her students, but never more than she gives.”

Asked for her age, Gorne dubs herself “over 50.” But nothing — certainly not age — has been able to slow her down. She still regularly visits an elementary school student and two high school teachers she taught as students in Minnesota.

“They made a strong impression on me—they treated me as a person, not just another student,” she said.

Her daughter admires her as well.

“Mom’s been a single parent since I was 2,” said Gorne’s daughter, Robin. “I’ve always admired her energy and dedication. When I was younger, she always took me with her on trips; there were lots of students over at the house, and always fun and laughter. She always put me first — it was me and it was teaching. And she has really transformed people’s lives.”

Robin was actually a student in her mother’s classes for up to three periods each day when she attended Federal Way High. In that time, she became aware of some of the things her mother did for students that others might not have seen.

“She always stressed that students had to be well-dressed during speech and debate competitions, and many a time I saw her take a student shopping for a suit or shirt and tie who couldn’t afford one on his own,” Robin said.

But even lavished with praise, Gorne is ever modest.

“If I do something, I want to do it well,” Gorne said. “I like to see kids succeed; it keeps them out of trouble; they feel good about themselves and develop confidence. I enjoy kids; they make me feel young. They are very inspirational. Teaching is a rewarding profession.”

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