Madame Kuehner: the crème de la crème teacher


Danny Tajimaroa

Madame Kuehner insists she is not a dictionary when it comes to class vocabulary. Kuehner is also the proud French Club advisor, promoting a blend of culture and fun activities.

Madame Kuehner, a self-proclaimed “active booger,” enlivens the high school experience of Carlsbad students with her talkative personality and, admittedly, her quirks. These idiosyncrasies include her adoration of George Clooney, her clever memorization techniques and, most recently, her trademark scooter. Students may recognize Kuehner as a mere French teacher, but that is only the beginning.

In high school, Kuehner got her start in the French language and felt it was the only class in which she could really speak comfortably. In addition, although she originates from a French background, Kuehner views her family as 100 percent “Americanized.”

“I took French in high school because it’s my ancestry, and there’s a reason my name is Michelle Renee,” Kuehner said. “My great-grandfather and great-grandmother cut it off when they moved to Chicago because they wanted to become Americans, so they wouldn’t pass on French to their kids.”

Kuehner’s own family includes three stepdaughters, seven grandchildren and three canine children. Her family bloomed from a serendipitous encounter…in a parking lot.

“My husband and I met in a parking lot. He was a coach for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s team and training program. They decided to start a North County team, and I had done it years before, so they called me,” Kuehner said. “Well, now we’re married. He was the coach, and I was his worker bee.”

Then, at 24, an age Kuehner describes as “still a baby,” she was diagnosed with a large hole in her atrial septum. Saving her life in the nick of time, Kuehner’s doctors successfully performed an emergency open-heart surgery.

“I always wondered when I was growing up because I was really fast at running the 100, but could never hold out for the 200. I always knew I would huff and puff, but I thought I was in bad shape. I took it upon myself to get into better shape. What that did was strengthen my heart wall, and it’s what saved my life,” Kuehner said. “It became this mentally, ‘I can run further now, so I will’ and so I did. I started in my mid-to-late 20’s really putting distance on because I never could before. It was this conquering the world feeling.”

Now, Kuehner is healing from a more recent injury: a broken foot that dates back to 1991. On the first day of school this year, she surprised students, riding up to class on a scooter with her leg confined by a red, white and blue cast—representative of the French flag.

Kuehner admits that many people question her decision to teach high school students. But to her, watching youngsters transform into mature adults is worth the ride. Having lasted 21 years at CHS and 27 years overall in teaching, Kuehner plans for many more to come.

“I meet the coolest people because of where I work. And I’m not only talking only about the faculty. It’s the kids,” Kuehner said. “That’s why I endure four and five preps and my desk looks like that. Every single day. It’s because of you guys, watching you do what you do. It’s the sappy part, but it’s really why I’m here.”