Science teacher returns from health leave

Marcella Park

Science teacher Walt Werner returned to school at the beginning of the semester after finishing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph tissue. After being diagnosed in June, Werner had taken medical leave starting in October.

Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Werner had a stem cell transplant.

“Although it was very hard, it went well,” Walt Werner’s wife and history teacher Francine Werner ’68 said. “He’s okay now and just needs to get checked sometimes.”

“It’s good to be back,” Walt Werner said. “It’s wonderful to be back. I missed the school, I missed the students, I missed the energy. And it’s great to be healthy again.”

After the procedure, Walt Werner was susceptible to infections and stayed in the hospital to recover in a “germ-free environment,” Francine Werner said.

He was released from the hospital before Christmas and, once back home, prepared to return to teaching. Francine Werner said she and her husband thought it would be better for him to start teaching again at the beginning of the semester for an easier transition.

“Getting back to work wasn’t hard at all, frankly, once I started to get over the physiological problems — being tired and unmotivated because the doctors just tore my body down with therapeutic drugs,” Walt Werner said.

While Werner was gone, science teachers Larry Axelrod and Dietrich Schuhl covered his AP Biology classes. William Peet, who taught at Harvard-Westlake from 1979-2003, covered Werner’s Human Anatomy and Physiology classes.

Werner took over the anatomy course from Peet after he retired in 2003.

“We were very, very fortunate indeed to have Dr. Peet come in,” Werner said. “Thus far I’ve been pleased with my energy levels, and synergistic interactions with students increase my energy level and make life a little bit more interesting,” he said. “It’s good to be back.”