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Community Celebrates Principal with a Scholarship

While retired Lakeside Elementary School Principal Linda Kehm read the storybooks “Piggy Pie” and “Mucky Moose,” students knew every word by heart and the motions to go along with each page.

The fourth- and fifth-grade students smacked their lips, tapped their chins, flapped their “wings” and clucked like hens while listening to the beloved tales Kehm has read to them many times.

Even East Grand Rapids high school students know the stories — and seven more — word for word because of Kehm. For the past 20 years she has devoted a book each month to read to students.

“I need eight plump piggies for piggy pie!” she read in a menacing witch’s voice. The students laughed and squealed.

Kehm’s story time this year had an extra special tone. The 21-year principal retired last school year after a recurrence of cancer. She has been diagnosed with incurable stage four cancer that is affecting her lungs, liver, stomach and lymph nodes. She is receiving treatment to prolong her life.Students know all the motions to the book “Piggy Pie”

“This is a big day today,” she said, while waiting a group of students to arrive.

The school community honored Kehm with an assembly, a video of students talking about how she’s impacted them, a retirement well-wishes box where people dropped in their memories, and an open house. The “Kindness Counts Scholarship” Kehm started in 2007 has been renamed the “Linda Kehm Kindness Counts Scholarship.” The Lakeside Parent Teacher Organization hopes to create an endowment to fund the annual award given to an EGR High School senior who exhibits extraordinary service to others.

Kehm worked to create culture in the school, which is her lasting legacy. All Lakeside students know her mottos: “Kindness Counts” and “Read a Zillion Books.”

“She really wants the school to be kind and for us to show other schools how to be kind,” said Grace Cox, a fourth grader. “It’s really awesome to see her again.”

“What I learned from her is to always be kind even when someone is putting you down,” added Megan Ballema, a fifth grader.

Kehm left her post to receive initial treatments during the 2012-2013 school year and returned full time last fall. She didn’t want to retire, but after learning the cancer had returned, she didn’t want to leave temporarily again.

Coming back for the day was a joy.

“You slip back into that beautiful rhythm you had before,” she said. “Kids melt away any feeling of discomfort or distance,” she said.

New Lakeside Principal Craig Weigel said Kehm has been a huge advocate for learning and putting students first.

“She’s built a such a solid foundation around literacy and treating people with respect,” he said. “Those are things we will work hard to continue.”

To help endow the Linda Kehm Kindness Counts Scholarship, checks can be made to the Lakeside PTO, with the memo line: Kindness Counts Scholarship Fund. Mail to Lakeside Elementary, 2325 Hall St., SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.

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School News Network Story on Linda Kehm

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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