Yvonne Christensen of unincorporated Oregon City is the 2017 Substitute of the Year
Unincorporated Oregon City resident Yvonne Christensen, 71, says she has "no plans for retirement as a substitute teacher and never will."
That's because Christensen loves how being a sub "keeps me on my toes mentally." She prefers one-day assignments in the Canby, North Clackamas, Oregon City and Lake Oswego school districts.
"I feel subs are like the Marines: first in, first line, first to solve problems, without any or little backup," she said. "I am always hopeful that my efforts with the students will benefit the staff teacher on his or her return."
Christensen's efforts were rewarded with the 2017 Substitute of the Year award from the Oregon Substitute Teachers Association, the second time in three years that a substitute teacher from the Oregon City area has been awarded the state's top honor. Joyce Gifford was named the 2015 Oregon Substitute Teacher of the Year.
With her most frequent assignment at Clackamas High School, the North Clackamas School District nominated Christensen for the 2017 Substitute of the Year award. CHS secretaries Beth Ruhl and Patty Conales both nominated Christensen.
"I try hard and continually to treat each student as a positive, worthwhile, valuable human being," Christensen said. "I continually watch for judo moments: catching kids being on task. It isn't hard 95 percent of the time, because I truly enjoy interacting with these nearly adult personalities."
All subs get asked why they're not "real" teachers.
"Of course, I always answer that I am a real teacher with all of the licenses and compassion, commitment and passion of a staff teacher, but only on a daily, not yearly, focus," Christensen said.
Allison Irving was named one of the finalists for the 2017 Substitute of the Year award. Oregon City's Ogden Middle School principal's secretary Karrie Austin nominated Irving for the award, because she will take on a Spanish or choir class if asked, although Irving's specialty is special ed.
"Her smile and bubbly attitude is contagious," Austin wrote of Irving in a nomination letter. "She has gone above and beyond, taking notes on all of the children... She pays extra attention and time on students who seem to be struggling in their studies or personal issues."
Irving has continued to sub while working part-time for the Clackamas County Juvenile Department.
"I've thoroughly enjoyed the terror of being a middle school band teacher one day and an advanced-robotics teacher the next," Irving said.
Unlike most states, Oregon requires that subs have teacher's licenses. Christensen got her master's degree in education from Portland State University and previously received an associate's degree in art from Clackamas Community College.
Prior to first becoming a sub in 1995, Christensen took classes in art, home economics and special ed with the intent of becoming a teacher after her kids left the house. By the time she was completing her PSU education degree, she knew exactly what she wanted to do, writing her master's paper on how subs can prevent burnout.