Many people in the valley may know Debbie Keetch and some of you may not, but many of your children may know her very well as she taught school at Paris Elementary and then at the Middle School for 41 years!
Debbie was born and raised most of her childhood in Dingle. She went to school in Bear Lake until her senior year at Bear Lake High School, but when the Railroad depot went out her family had to move to Pocatello. At that point, Debbie finished her senior year and graduated from Highland High School there.
A year after graduation, she married her high school sweetheart, Dan Keetch, and they moved back to Montpelier. They then had three children afterwhich Debbie went to school to obtain her teaching degree.
Debbie says it took her eight years to get her degree. This was because she had to drive to Utah State University to attend classes. A group of students drove from Cokeville, Soda Springs, and Randolph, but in the summer months, Debbie drove back and forth to Utah State. But after “eight long years,” she earned her four-year degree. She actually first sought her Special Education degree, then she obtained her Elementary K-8 degree.
As mentioned, Debbie and Dan have three children. First is Chet who married Jill Phillips from Smithfield. Chet and Jill have one boy and four girls. Chet helps Debbie and Dan on their ranch. Then is Bodie who married Jodie Pope from Cokeville, and they have two boys and one girl. Bodie owns his own fencing company and Jodie has her own business. Lastly, is Hayden who married Trevor Neal from Stone, Idaho. They live in Bennington and have two boys and two girls. Hayden is a stay-at-home mom and Trevor is co-owner of Bear River Electric. They have two boys and two girls. Debbie says all three of her children have educational degrees as education was very important in their family. Bodie and Hayden pursued teaching degrees and Chet went into agricultural business.
Debbie and Dan together own and operate Keetch 61 Ranch where they run a cow/calf operation. They also own property in Bear Lake County, Caribou County, and Promontory, Utah. They usually go to Promontory in the late fall and spend all winter there where they calve out cows and “get out of the cold weather.”
Debbie’s teaching career has been long and fruitful. She spent one year teaching at Paris Elementary and the rest of her 41 years at Bear Lake Middle School. She taught reading and writing and spent the last 15 years teaching math. She was also the Athletic Director at the Middle School for 27 years, and in 2019 she received the Middle School Athletic Director of the Year Award for the State of Idaho.
Debbie says teaching was the most challenging and most rewarding part of her life. She loved being around the kids and watching their eyes light up as they “got” a concept of math. She says, “At the beginning of the year, I always asked the kids, ‘Who loves math?’ But only a handful of kids raised their hands. At the end of the year I would do the same thing, and I would have changed a lot of kids’ minds. That’s what’s rewarding is when they are successful in math. I love math. I didn’t think I would, but I surely did. I’m just grateful I had the ability to help kids have the beginning of the love for math. It’s awesome!”
Debbie retired from teaching last year, in 2020. She says, “I haven’t loved retirement. If I could have gone back to teaching the second week I would have. I miss the classroom and being around the kids. I miss education. It’s been my life. That’s why I became a candidate for a seat on the School Board recently. I just wasn’t finished with education! I care about the kids and this valley and I want to be a part of it to continue this greatness. I feel I have a unique perspective because I am an educator first, but also a rancher. I understand property taxes and how it affects voting for bonds. I feel like I can look at both sides in times when we need to pass levies or bonds and give some input.”
Debbie says she just loves the Bear Lake valley. She hates the cold, but loves the valley, and she doesn’t plan on leaving any time soon. She feels we have a really great community here, and she is amazed by the outpouring of love we have for each other. She feels education and family are important to everyone here.
Debbie Keetch, education and family first!