FEATURE: Remembering Adam Leitel

Students, staff and community members share stories of Adam Leitel

Olivia Nagel

Free State High School U.S. history teacher and coach Adam Leitel died on Feb. 3 at 41 years old due to an unexpected medical emergency. He taught for 11 years at Free State and coached girls’ tennis and track and field. 

 The Celebration of Life for Adam will be on Monday, Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. at Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home located at 14275 Black Bob Road, Olathe, KS 66062.

Colleagues, parents, students and friends all remember Leitel as an excellent person and teacher. 

Here is what they had to say: 

“Mr. Leitel was the gravitational center of the Social Studies Department. He had a special magnetism that pulled people in his direction. He was unfailing of good nature every single day and throughout each day. Among the dozens of fond memories I have are the many times he brought actual newspaper articles to my room that he thought were interesting and that I could benefit from.” – Government teacher

Jeff Haas.

“Leitel was one of my favorite teachers. He was one of the few adults in this building who made me feel like he genuinely cared not only about my education but about me as a person. He understood. He committed so much time to teach, and it showed. Leitel’s lectures helped me fall in love with history, and I genuinely looked forward to attending his class. He made learning fun. A day didn’t go by that I didn’t laugh in his class, and even when he wasn’t my teacher anymore, he never stopped saying hi to me in the halls and asking about my life.”- senior Emma Hefty. 

“I spent a good amount of time around Coach Leitel, seeing as I had him as both a coach and a teacher. One thing that will always stick with me is that no matter what you think your limits are academically or athletically, he would encourage you to strive to be even better than that. He was always someone you could come to if you had questions or needed advice, and he would genuinely help you out.” – Karmina Douglas, class of ‘22.

“I have so many positive thoughts and memories about Adam. One of the most impactful ways he has influenced my life is that he would light up whenever you’d walk into the room (or he’d walk into yours). He’d say, “Hey, Champ!” and make you feel like the most important person in the world. I will miss that smile and that saying and how he made me feel. I hope to honor him and pass that message to others.” – Chemistry teacher Jordan Rose. 

I had Leitel as a coach and teacher. You could tell he cared about what students got out of his class and tried to give them a reason to care, pushing bad students to be good and good students to be great. I only ran track my senior year, but he had the same approach in both areas. He makes you believe you can do more than you have already done and then holds you to it. I will never forget how he pushed me to be better than I ever thought I could and have fun while doing it.” – Ryan Flakus, class of ‘18.

“Coach Leitel taught some of my kids in class and was a tennis coach to one. I always enjoyed catching up with him at tennis matches; he had great energy and pa

id great attention to the team.” – Free State parent Laurie Pilakowski.

“Last track season, I was doing the last jump of my season, and I made a huge PR; he played a huge part in the skill that I have now, and when I made my PR, I remember how happy he was for me and how happy he made me feel. I could tell he was proud of me, and it was amazing to have a coach who believed in me. It was a great moment to experience, and I’m so glad I was able to enjoy it with a coach like Leitel. He always looked out for the jumpers and tried his hardest to help everyone reach our potential.” – sophomore Sofia Bourdo. 

“I remember vividly during my sophomore year track season; I had just finished running the 4×400 relay at JV League. Coach Leitel pulled me off to the side to tell me my time. It was a 53.6, and he congratulated me and asked if I wanted to run on varsity at regionals. Making varsity had been my goal the entire season, that put me on top of the world that night.” – senior Elijah Sabatini.

“Adam Leitel was a brilliant force — a man full of life and promise. We often talked about teaching practice, and I could never convince him that a block schedule was good for kids. He would smile and shake his head and say, “We will have to agree to disagree,” Adam truly cared about education and the people he worked with. One of our last conversations involved my lack of Chiefs gear. Adam, wherever you are in the universe, I know that you were laughing yesterday when I bought a KC Chiefs shirt.” – English teacher Laura Woolfolk.