High School Sweethearts

TPHS is home to teacher couples who share a love for teaching and each other. The Falconer takes a look at these beloved couples and their origin stories.

The Lopezes

Falling in love with someone who shares the same passion and career is lucky, and working at the same school? Even better. Getting to see your spouse throughout the day in hallways and school events is not for everyone, but Heather and Mike Lopez would not have it any other way.

The couple has been married for 14 years, a rare pair at TPHS. Mike teaches freshman Biology and Culinary Arts, while Heather teaches AP Research, AP English Language and Cheer P.E.

In their case, the Lopezes barely see each other during school hours.

They have two daughters, ages eight and 12, that need to be taken care of, so they alternate schedules, – Mike finishing before lunch and Heather starting late and working until the end of the day.

Working around their teaching schedules has become second nature for them.

“We have always taught opposite schedules so we can be with our kids,” Mike said.

They both have been teaching for over 20 years, and even worked at a school together prior to TPHS. They met teaching, coincidentally, or maybe by fate, getting hired at the same time. When they are not working or spending time with their kids, the Lopezes adore traveling. Heather has been to all 50 states, with Mike accompanying her to the last few. Together they have visited nine countries.

“When I think of my favorite things we have done, most are with travel and our kids,” Heather said.

Just like their contrasting subjects of teaching, with Heather in humanities and Mike in STEM, the Lopezes are proof that opposites really do attract.

“I love how he is laid-back and always ready for adventure,” Heather said.

In contrast, Mike describes Heather as the kind of person who gets things done. Without her, he believes, there would be a lot missing in their household.

The Lopezes’ love story started and continues with what they love to do: teaching. If they had never been applying for the same job at the same time, their lives would be completely different.

The Doerrers

In the rush of passing period, two new teachers jostle past each other, one exiting and one entering Room 108, the classroom they share. Exchanging only a few words as they rotate classes, neither would have guessed that six years later they would be married.

Chas Doerrer, an AP Psychology teacher and football and track and field coach, laughs remembering that year of sharing a classroom with his wife, Jennifer (King) Doerrer.

“With coaching and everything else, I was probably always rushing,” he said. “I don’t think I made a good impression.”

Despite this unconventional introduction, they reconnected a few years later and have not looked back since.

“She overcame my horrible first impression,” Chas joked.

While they no longer share a classroom or even a hallway, the Doerrers find time in their days to support each other on campus.

Early on in their relationship, Jennifer, an art teacher and the co-chair of the Visual & Performing Arts Department, often developed her art curriculum with Chas.

“We used to be night owls … so we would just paint sometimes,” Chas said. “She would be doing her art lesson and I would do whatever the lesson was. [At] one in the morning, we’d still be painting.”

While this routine ended when they started their family, Chas still appreciates Jennifer’s creativity; he often incorporates art into his psychology class and during breaks, will email her art inspiration.

Though their days remain separate, these email exchanges and check-ins during lunch, create treasured moments throughout the day. “We’re a serious cardinal and gold family,” Chas, also a former TPHS student, said.

With this dedication to their campus, the Doerrers have worked to find a balance between their shared career and their family life. “There are pluses and minuses to sharing the same job because it’s sometimes harder to find a boundary,” Chas said. “You have to find the right balance in your life.”

For 15 years, the Doerrers have practiced finding that balance. While they may no longer be passing each other in the doorway of Room 108, a quick email exchange about a local art installation or a knock at a door to signal a lunch delivery are reminders of the role TPHS played in their relationship.

The Ralls

A chance encounter on Catalina Island sparked not only the Ralls’ careers in teaching but also their marriage.

Both Mary Ann, now a biotech and AP Biology teacher, fresh out of her studies at the University of Nebraska, and Michael, now a chemistry teacher, returning from a job in Alaska, were each drawn to Catalina Island as a place to figure out their “next step.” They found that step together as instructors at an educational program for visiting students.

“It was a fun time in life because [we were] surrounded by like-minded people that enjoyed science … and [were] ready for adventure,” Mary Ann said.

That love of adventure defined their relationship. After setting off from Catalina Island, they spent three months traveling Australia, the Cook Islands and New Zealand, forming many of their favorite memories together.

“Mrs. Rall was my dive buddy,” Michael said. “We went on a lot of really good scuba diving adventures.”

When they settled in San Diego, their memories lingered.

“The time we spent on Catalina Island teaching really resonated with us … so we gravitated toward getting our credentials in teaching,” Michael said.

While they initially taught in different districts, un-synched school breaks that no longer allowed for shared adventures spurred Michael’s move to TPHS, where Mary Ann had been teaching for four years.

“We were losing the commonality of what we [did],” he said. Nestled toward the back of campus, in classrooms facing each other, the Ralls have shared TPHS ever since, welcoming two children along the way.

“I gaze at him from the back door,” Mary Ann joked.

“Yeah right,” Michael quipped.

While they are separated by only a few steps, their days remain fairly separate.

“We have 190 students plus … and we teach technical classes where people have questions,” Michael said, adding that their days are too “busy” to have much crossover.

However, that separation at work, especially as it relates to creating boundaries, has strengthened their relationship.

“When you work with your spouse, it’s important not to talk about work when you go home,” Michael said. “That was a rule we made early on.”

For 21 years, the balance has served them well, as they bring the same love for science and nature that they fostered on Catalina Island to the classrooms of TPHS.

The Neubauers

The clock strikes 3:25 p.m., and the parking lots flood with students eager to head home for the afternoon. Meanwhile, in the teacher lot, Julie and Eric Neubauer meet up to debrief each other on the day as they drive home.

“We really love that we have saved gas money,” social science teacher Julie said.

Julie, who teaches AP World History and AP European History, has enjoyed working alongside her husband at the same school for the past seven years. Eric works in the Career Technical Education pathway as an Automotive Technology teacher and sitting as the TPHS Chair and District Chair for CTE for the past eight years.

“It’s neat to have [students] that we both know that we can talk about because when I taught at a different school, he [Eric] would not have any idea who they were, so now we can talk about the kids,” Julie said.

Although the Neubauers’ classrooms are far apart on campus, their 12-year marriage, 25-year relationship began in two side-by-side seats in the Rhetoric and Writing 100 7 p.m. class at San Diego State University.

“[When I first sat next to Julie] I think I was intrigued,” Eric said. After class Eric offered to walk Julie to her car.

“When he walked me to my car and saw I had a Jeep, I think that is when he decided he was going to propose,” Julie said.

Although Julie’s tan ‘85 Jeep Scrambler was definitely impressive, Eric’s love went much deeper than that.

“[Julie’s best quality the] ability for both of us to accept each other’s interests regardless of if we like them at the same time,” Eric said.

While working together at TPHS has strengthened the Neubauers’ relationship, the couple’s best memories lie beyond campus.

“My favorite times with him are when we are at the river with our dogs,” Julie said. “It is our happy place for both of us … we have a lot of fun.”

The Neubauers, 25 years strong, are proof that a casual classroom encounter could introduce you to your future significant other.

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1,008 thoughts on “High School Sweethearts

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