Written by The Levittown Tribune Staff Thursday, 27 March 2014 00:00
Two teachers in the Island Trees School District have been selected as the recipients of the Harvard Club’s “Distinguished Teacher of 2014 Award,” for their dedication as educators.
Lori Christensen has been an English teacher in the Island Trees School District for 17 years, and currently serves as Chairperson of her department. She proudly advises the National Honor Society, teaches The College Process, a senior elective and mentors new teachers.
Ms. Christensen describes herself as defined by the “three Rs: Running, Reading, and wRiting.” During the year, she is known for attracting teens, teachers, and friends alike for book chat; and during the summer enjoys jogging the Long Beach Boardwalk each day before relaxing with a good book.
Ms. Christensen has received the prestigious “Teacher of Excellence” award from the New York State English Council and, more importantly, received the first ever Teacher of the Year award at Island Trees High School.
Mr. Wagner, has taught all but one of his 22 years in the Island Trees district. He currently teaches Physical Setting Earth Science, a course he finds wonderfully stimulating. As the coach of the Island Trees Science Olympiad Team, he enjoys the variety of science that must be mastered, noting that some of what he teaches is college-level material.
An avid photographer of nature and wildlife, Wagner’s hobbies almost consume his interest as much as teaching does. From photographing glacial geology in Alaska to canyons and rock formations in Australia, he tries to use his photos to create memorable images for his students.
Both Christensen and Wagner were nominated for their awards by Kathryn J. Gundersen, a former Island Trees High School student who will graduate from Harvard College in June 2017.
Gundersen said that through the teachings of Mr. Wagner, she learned what it means to be passionate about your work.
“I’d never really considered science my ‘thing,’” Gundersen says, “but his passion was absolutely contagious. I can only hope to be as passionate about my future work as he is about his own.”
Both teachers exhibit a work ethic second to none, according to Elizabeth Roemer, the Island Trees School District Administrator for Educational Programs, Literacy, and Staff Development. Roemer has worked side by side with both Ms. Christensen and Mr. Wagner, over the past 25 years, and feels they are influential because they live their values.
“Lori leaves the building each day with her purple teaching bag slung on her shoulder, heavy with stacks of her students’ AP Language and Composition papers, current event article responses, and dialectical journals,” Roemer said. “Each night (and weekend) she works tirelessly to offer her students valuable feedback on their written analyses. And she expects the same from her students; just ask any of them, and they would be happy to tell you all about it.”