Teacher award is music to student's ear

Greg Christiansen doesn’t mind coming to work each morning — even at 7.

Under the rising morning sun, he gets to stand in front of 180 musicians — his favorite type of people.

Christiansen is a music instructor at Golden Valley High School and Thursday night he was honored as Merced County’s Teacher of the Year.

“I feel humbled because there are so many great teachers at Golden Valley and in the county,” Christiansen said.

But at Golden Valley, he is something special.

“He deserves it,” senior band member Tim Kevin Abresinos said. “He works with the biggest group of students in the school.”

For four years, Abresinos has learned from Christiansen in the band room, on practice fields and on road trips.

“He knows how to have fun and when to have fun, but when it comes to work, he pushes us hard,” Abresinos said.

Principal Craig Chavez nominated Christiansen for the award last year.

“I think highly of him,” Chavez said. “You can ask any teacher on campus about the academic performance of our band students and they will tell you it is great.”

Christiansen shies away from too much attention directed at himself.

“If it weren’t for the students, this wouldn’t have happened. I owe it to them,” he said. “I would rather it be the ‘students of the year’ award than the ‘teacher of the year’ award.”

He also added that his own teachers over time deserved much of the credit.

Christiansen first started playing trumpet in fourth grade. He remained interested in music through the rest of his educational career, earning a bachelor’s degree in music education from University of the Pacific, and a master’s degree in music with an emphasis on jazz education.

He has been teaching in Merced since 1987, and has been at Golden Valley since the school opened in 1994.

“As soon as I started playing music, I knew that it would by my vocation,” Christiansen said. “I wanted to be a teacher from the start.”

He said his ultimate goal is that his students value and appreciate what they have learned from music and become advocates for arts education.

One opportunity he has secured for his students will definitely stick in their minds forever. In January, the band will head to Pasadena to march in the Rose Parade.

Junior Carlos Miramontes can’t wait.

“The main reason we are going to the Rose Parade is because of his teaching,” Miramontes said. “We wouldn’t have been here without him.”

Earlier on Thursday, Christiansen directed a band performance at a superintendent’s luncheon in the school’s gym.

A “Pasadena Tournament of Roses” flag hung at the corner of their performance space. The community members and educators in the crowd gave a resounding round of applause as the band finished their last song.

“That’s great. They sounded like professionals to me,” Superintendent Scott Scambray said. “He deserves a pat on the back because what he does is amazing.”Outside the verdict was the same.

“That’s our band? It sounds like a stereo,” a student said as she walked under the gymnasium’s vents.

Seven other teachers were honored as outstanding teachers within their districts. They are:

*Maria Angela Alvarez, who teaches first grade at Harmony Elementary in the Delhi Unified School District.

*Jack Burke, who teaches at Washington Elementary School for the Merced River Elementary School District.

*Pauline Griset, who teaches eighth grade at Gustine Middle School in the Gustine Unified School District.

*Charleen King, who teaches preschool for the Delhi Unified School District.

*Margie Stallings, who deaf and hard-of-hearing students for the Merced County Office of Education.

*Tracy Sumner, who teaches high school students in the Los Banos Unified School District.

*Mary Whited, who teaches career and alternative education for the Merced County Office of Education at Golden Valley High School.