(I wrote the following announcement about the retirement of my friend and former colleague Gary Christiansen and, without byline, it was published in the Bakersfield Californian on May 24, 2019.)
Long ago friends and colleagues of Gary Christiansen began to wonder how he could teach a four-hour English as a Second Language class five mornings a week, U.S. Citizenship for two hours after a quick lunch during which, rather than rest, he usually helped students complete their documents, and return to Bakersfield Adult School three or four nights a week for a three-hour class. That’s forty-two hours of teaching a week. Many who stagger through a regular full-time load of thirty hours concluded Christiansen must be endowed with rare levels of energy.
Either due to modesty or concern he’d be considered a fanatic, Christiansen rarely mentioned he was also teaching another class a week at CSU Bakersfield or the University of Phoenix or Bakersfield College. Many observers assumed he’d never quit, and perhaps he won’t, not entirely. But at the end of this spring semester, according to reliable sources in the Kern High School District, Gary Christiansen is indeed retiring to create more time for his wife, Francisca, his five grown children, two stepchildren, numerous grandchildren, and many other relatives.
Christiansen’s commitment to education began as a diligent high school student in Wisconsin where he was raised. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and a master’s in administration from the University of Wisconsin prior to studying theology in Chicago. He soon moved to California and worked as a minister several years before he launched his academic career, teaching high school Spanish at Garces, Highland, and Foothill for fourteen years. He changed linguistic gears twenty-five years ago and joined the faculty at Bakersfield Adult School. His ESL students, as well as coworkers, have appreciated his easygoing manner as well as his comprehensive education. In a related note, his three daughters and two sons all have advanced degrees, and his stepdaughter is a physician.
Now Gary Christianen, a vigorous man who’ll turn seventy-five in September, plans to travel frequently and spend quality time in scenic Piedmont and vibrant Mexico City and august Washington, D.C. and other places where relatives who host him will also benefit from his less hectic schedule. But don’t wager against his teaching part-time somewhere. A complete break might be unwise. The classroom keeps him young.