MR. GIL ST. LEON by Kirk Silsbee (’73)
Gil St. Leon considers his MHS tenure ('56-'75) the most memorable part of his 42 yr. career. He was a demanding English and French teacher who was nonetheless beloved by students. His first year teaching jitters were so bad that he considered leaving. That changed in the fall of '59. At the last minute he was given a Sr. Honors Eng. class that had its heart set on another teacher. Gil came on like a Marine sargeant-had them reading Proust in French-but the class rose to his expectations. "They warmed to me", he smiled, "and it was the greatest year of my life." From that point, teacher, students and curriculum all clicked. He was born in Chicago and raised in Okla. After serving in the 4th Marine Div. in WW II, he studied Drama at the University of Washington in Seattle on the GI Bill. St. Leon's fascination with France had been stoked by the romance of Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises." After working in the post office, he went to Paris and lived there for a year. He returned to L.A. with a French wife and got his teaching credential at USC. Next stop MHS. Gil could be counted on to lend polished acting to Mr. LaCerte's drama productions. After MHS, he went to Santa Monica College, where he met his current wife, Shirley. After dating 3 years, she was still undecided about marriage. Gil promised her a trip to Paris and that closed it. They've been to Paris 22 times. He's been retired from teaching for 10 years now but Gil and Shirley recently returned from Italy, where they were part of a volunteer program to teach English. Some habits die, hard. Both he and Shirley attended the Mane Event in 2008.