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Lori Buher looks back on a 27-year career with La Conner Schools

Lori Buher retired in June after 27 years with La Conner Schools and even longer as a La Conner School parent.

Her long career can be divided into three chapters.

In Chapter 1, she joined the La Conner Co-op Preschool when Eric and Anne enrolled in 1987, serving until 1992. By 1989, she was also on the board of the La Conner Elementary PTA. Soon she was helping lead the school’s Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts.

“It was a lot of fun, and I had great support from other parents, but I was definitely a helicopter mom,” she remembers. “Why did we have head lice? Why weren’t my kids getting accelerated math? I was going to solve all the problems.”

Chapter 2 changed her perspective. Hired as elementary school secretary in 1996, she was now both a parent and part of the administration. As she learned more about the people she was serving, she realized it wasn’t about those problems. “It was about raising humans,” she says.

She loved working with kindergartners, especially when they needed a hug, an ice pack or a popsicle, and called her “Miss Loli” because couldn’t say their Rs.

In the most dramatic part of Chapter 2, her son Carl contracted bacterial meningitis after a school basketball game and spent six months at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. School staffers donated vacation hours so Buher could stay by his side.

Once Carl had recovered and graduated, Buher continued as secretary but began to pursue a master’s in counseling.

“She got so much out of it,” says daughter Anne Buher McNair. “It gave her kind of a second wind, to have something she was so invested in. Going back to school was really brave and I’m really proud of her.”

An internship with then-high school counselor Maureen Harlan was influential.

“She taught me the phrase ‘don’t guess, make a call,’” recalls Buher. “When a student had a question about something I didn’t know much about, I should find out instead of trying to show that I knew everything. That was really good advice.”

During Chapter 3, as middle school and high school counselor, “relationships with students’ families helped me learn what to value in students and to respect the students and their parents and families for who they were and where they were in their journey,” she says. She made mistakes – but she always did her best.

Being school counselor has not been a 9-to-5 job. She has counseled students at the Pioneer Market, visited students and families on the weekends and helped students who turned up at her home needing last-minute help on a scholarship application. In her “free” time, she has represented the school in the La Conner Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.

“The three of us kids were her first trial run, her mentees,” says McNair. “First she was our counselor and then she was everybody’s. It’s really her skill set.”

So what is Mrs. Buher taking away from her long career? For one thing, a strong belief in the importance of parents. “As much as I wanted to do for any student, their parents and families always gave them more,” she said. “They owe their successes to what their families gave them. My role was really to support that.”

As well, those years “taught me how to be a better human,” she says. “It has been a gift to me, but the school will benefit from the fresh ideas and fresh energy my replacement brings.”

As for the next chapter, Buher looks forward to having more time for baking, for hanging with her dog, for projects at home, for traveling and trying new things.

“She has three grandkids now and is putting up a greenhouse and a gardening shed,” said daughter McNair.

“We are excited to have her full attention back, although it won’t really be her full attention, because she’ll be busy.


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