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Alumni Happenings - January 2006
Grand County High School

From Tacos to Teaching:
GCHS alumnus Michael Arehart

by Jeff Richards

Mike Arehart

Mike Arehart, a member of the Grand County High Class of 1969, now works as a teacher in the same place he went to high school (the building is now Grand County Middle School). A lifelong history buff, he teaches 8th-grade American history and beginning German at GCMS, where he has worked for the past 11 years.

But Arehart, 54, wasn’t always a teacher. He and his wife Ann are perhaps best known for having owned and operated the Taco Bender, a fast food joint at 415 North Main (where the Slickrock Cycles bike shop is currently located). They operated the restaurant, a popular hangout that catered to the high school crowd, for 20 years, from 1974 until 1994. In 1993, Mike began a two-year stint as a 6th-grade teacher at Helen M. Knight Intermediate School, and Ann also began working for Grand County School District shortly thereafter (she is currently in charge of the substitute office).

Mike met Ann (a native of Nephi who graduated from Juab High School) during his college years. The former Ann Sparks is the sister of longtime Moab resident Helen Tranter (wife of Dee Tranter). Mike and Ann now have four grown children (Teresa, Mindee, Trevor, and Monica) and six grandchildren.

“One thing I remember about high school graduation is that both of my parents graduated with me,” recalls Mike, explaining that his folks Bud and Lenore Arehart had gotten married during their junior year and had never finished high school, but were able to complete their degrees in time to graduate in the spring of 1969 with their oldest son. Bud passed away a few years ago, but Lenore still lives a couple of blocks away from Mike and Ann, near the HMK school.

Both of Mike’s two younger sisters (Ginger, Class of ’70 and Debbie, Class of ’71) attended Grand County High at the same time he did. Nowadays, Ginger Torres is also employed at Grand County Middle School, working as an administrative assistant in the front office just a few yards away from her brother’s classroom.

While in high school, Mike was involved in a variety of activities, including drama and music, debate tournaments, and honor society. He also served as senior class vice president.

Some of Mike’s most memorable teachers from his high school days include math teacher Gene Leonard, drama teacher Wendell Bowthorpe, Mr. and Mrs. Russ Donoghue, and English teachers Francis Foy and Val Maughan.
Following high school, Mike served an LDS mission to German-speaking Austria, and still uses his German skills, not only as a teacher but also as a translator. “I sometimes get calls from the hospital or other places wanting me to translate for German-speaking tourists,” he notes.

Even before he became a teacher, Mike was actively involved in Grand County schools. He served 12 years on the Grand County Board of Education, including 10 years as the school board’s president. All four of his and Ann’s children are proud graduates of GCHS.

One of Mike’s proudest moments came in the fall of 2004 when he had the opportunity of hosting the Miss Grand County pageant, and got to perform a couple of duets onstage with his youngest daughter Monica, whose one-year reign as Miss Grand County was coming to an end. Mike has participated in many pageants over the years, as both an emcee and a judge.

Mike’s lifelong love of music and drama has led to his involvement in a number of musical groups and theatrical productions. He was part of Moab’s illustrious Community Chorus, which performed various productions at Star Hall and other venues, including the following popular musicals: Oklahoma, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, The Sound of Music, and Hello, Dolly!

Mike’s teaching career has given him the chance to see new sights. He’s traveled as a chaperone on various field trips, including the school German club’s vacation to Austria, Germany, and Italy in the summer of 2005, which involved about 30 students and adult leaders from Moab. Mike says he and other organizers are already planning the group’s next trip, which will be to the British Isles in the summer of 2007.

Mike says he also enjoys being the middle school’s adviser for Cyber Corps, which trains young students how to troubleshoot computers. “It’s really amazing what these kids can do,” he remarks.
In their spare time, the Arehart family likes to visit the family property in Willow Basin and go four-wheeling on the ATV trails in the La Sal Mountains.
Mike’s accolades including being named teacher of the year for Grand County School District and Technology Teacher of the Year for the state of Utah. He also represented Utah for a week in Washington, D.C. He has also served on various boards and committees over the years, and is currently on the board of directors for the Grand County Credit Union. He’s also working on a second master’s degree in history by taking on-line classes from the University of Idaho. His two previous degrees (bachelors and masters degrees in elementary education) were both from Utah State University. He also studied speech therapy for a couple of years at BYU.

The Areharts’ Taco Bender days may be long gone, but many of the recipes from that restaurant still survive today, and can be ordered from the menu at the Stagecoach Grill (Grill co-owner Cheryl Nyland worked at the Taco Bender for many years). Mike says he that although he misses the fast food days sometimes, he’s glad to have found his niche as an educator. “Teaching is my calling in life,” he says. “It’s what I should have been doing all along.”

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