by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lisbet HornungBy Jamie Rudd

Guest writer

In 1979, Lisbet Hornung become an employee of the 509-J School District as a special education teacher assistant at Metolius Elementary. Thirty-five years and three positions later, Hornung has announced that this past school year will be her last.

“It’s not that I don’t have the energy,” she said. “I just don’t want to work 70 hours a week.” She has talked to COCC about the possibility of future part-time work but she’s also looking forward to a well-deserved break.

Born and raised in Denmark, Hornung moved to Madras in the late `70s to be with her husband, former Madras High School geography teacher Steven Rankin. She hoped to put her master’s degree to use as an English teacher. But after a year and a half in the special ed department and some time off to care for her daughters, Hornung still had not found what she was looking for.

“And then one day the superintendent (Darryl Wright) flagged me down in the street and said ‘Hey Lisbet, I have the perfect job for you,’” Hornung remembered. “And that was the start of the Teen Parent Program.”

Today the most tangible evidence of Hornung’s 22 years as the Teen Parent Program coordinator is MHS’ child care center. The rest of the program, which provided parenting classes and specialized support to more than 50 students a year, was eliminated in 2008 due to funding issues.

While Hornung is saddened by the program’s current state, she is proud of what she was able to accomplish as coordinator, building around the needs of students. Connecting teen parents to social services, providing at-home tutoring, and securing day care services were just a few of Hornung’s responsibilities in addition to teaching daily classes.

Hornung identifies her liberal arts education as the key to her success. While she admits that an English degree might seem like a “far-fetched connection,” she believes it made her the right kind of thinker and problem solver for the job. This, combined with frequent workshops and conferences about at-risk teenagers, helped her to achieve her number one goal: “keeping kids in school.”

“When I talk to [former students] today, they say ‘Without this program, I don’t know where I would have been,’” Hornung said. “It seems like a small service, but it was not small to them and it helped them be successful.”

When Hornung was eventually offered a job in the English department, she declined. “I sat back and thought, ‘I really love what I do and why would I want to change that?’” she remembered.

But when her job was cut along with the program, Hornung wasn’t ready to retire and finally accepted a position teaching English. “I was scared stiff,” she said. “It was like learning a brand new job.”

Nevertheless, she flourished, approaching her new position with the same vigor and dedication that drove the Teen Parent Program. After four years of teaching sophomores, she was honored with the chance to teach AP Literature and Composition, “one of the top English classes you can teach at a high school,” she noted.

Two years ago, however, Hornung requested fewer classes and as of the end of this school year, her full retirement was made official.

Hornung is grateful for her career with 509-J, but is excited for the future as well. She hopes to expand her community involvement, get acquainted with her new granddaughter, and reacquainted with old hobbies.

“Retirement has to be active for me, and it is probably going to involve education in some way or another,” she noted. “Who knows what next year will bring. Maybe I’ll write a brand new chapter.”

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