by Lorie Lewis Ham
Here at Kings River Life Magazine, we realize how important teachers and other school employees are to the lives of our children and the future of our communities as they shape the leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, most of the best of them work long hours with little recognition or thanks. Our goal here is to take a moment to thank as many of these people as we can — those who go above and beyond and exceed expectations.
Reedley High School English teacher and volleyball and swim team coach Christine Weems is in just her third year as a teacher, but this is only the beginning for her. She can’t imagine not teaching for many years to come. She has taught Corrective Reading (Fresh/Soph) one year, ELD Writing two years, and American Literature three years.
Born in Reedley, she grew up right outside of town on the family farm where they farmed stone fruit and table grapes. She attended Washington Elementary, Riverview, Reedley High School and then Fresno Pacific University where she received her Bachelors and then teaching credential. She did her student teaching at McLane and Clovis West.
Her interest in teaching began early with her love of reading. “My parents encouraged my love of reading as a child and I think that subconsciously influenced my love of the subject of English. As I started attending school my teachers noticed my love for the subject as well and really encouraged it. I especially remember my Jr. High and High School teachers giving me extra reading material and books that I might like on top of the homework. Those teachers really inspired me, and I want to be that type of person to others as well.”
Being a teacher runs in Christine’s family. Her grandmother taught second grade in Dinuba for many years and her mother is currently teaching third grade in Dinuba. “I took a slightly different path because of my love for literature specifically and coaching sports,” continued Christine.
Before becoming a teacher, Christine held several different jobs including working on the farm for her dad, as a lifeguard at the City pool, Preheim’s Jewelry, and during college at the campus coffee shop. Her time as a lifeguard helped prepare her for her job as a girl’s swim coach, and playing volleyball in high school helped prepare her for coaching volleyball. “It was really neat to come back and coach something that I really loved.”
Ending up in her dream job at RHS was all about timing. “I just graduated from the credential program at FPU and two teachers had just retired from Reedley High. I applied and got the job, so pretty much good timing.”
Christine’s typical day starts when she gets to her room at 7 a.m. to organize and make copies before class starts. She teaches six periods of American Literature, then after school she’s at volleyball practice from 3:30 until around 6 p.m. If there’s a game her day typically doesn’t end until 9 p.m. “It’s really long, but it makes me manage my time more wisely and use what little I have to get things done.”
The hardest part of her job is the balancing. “I love teaching, and I tend to neglect other people/things because of it sometimes. What I like best about my job is being with teenagers. They’re funny and keep you on your toes. I’m constantly learning from them, whether it’s about culture or they point out things I never thought of in the literature.”
Recently married, her students sometimes forget and call her Miss Penner. Because she looks so young, her students often tease her about it, but she doesn’t really mind because she thinks it helps her relate to them. “I will say something like ‘Back when I was in high school…’ and the students will just laugh and say ‘Like yesterday?’”
Amanda Teso is one of Christine’s students and on the volleyball team. “She’s a great person, she’s a wonderful teacher. She really connects with us students and talks to us like we’re adults and holds conversations with us during our class discussions. As a coach, she’s a coach. She puts us in situations where we have to do what we need to do. Because she played volleyball, it’s easier to listen to her, if that makes sense, like, it’s easier to understand what someone means when they’ve been in the same situations we go through.”
“She is a wonderful, upbeat teacher,” said longtime RHS English teacher Janet Adams. “She contributes as a colleague, coach, teacher, and friend to the students and staff at RHS. Her dream was to come back to her hometown to teach and live. She knows and loves the community. Though young to teaching, she makes up for experience with her wit and energy.”
“Christine makes a great contribution to RHS,” stated RHS Principal Rodney Cisneros. “Through her teaching and coaching, she has developed important relationships with our kids. She has truly come back to give back.”