Paul Christensen, better known as Mr. C., is undoubtedly an integral part of the Rowland Hall community. He teaches AP Calculus and Algebra II in the Upper School and has taught at Rowland Hall for over 37 years. For decades, almost anyone who graduated from Rowland Hall has had Mr. C. at least once, and his classes are a hallmark of RH’s rigorous academic program. Below is a transcription of a short interview with Mr. C. I also asked three students to predict Mr. C.'s replies to my questions, and I've put their guesses in before his answers.

 

What was Rowland Hall like when you first came here?

Well, it was much smaller. My first graduating class only had twenty-nine kids.

 

And did you teach calculus then?

I did teach calculus then. But I haven’t taught calculus continuously since then. I taught it for five or ten years and then somebody did it for five or ten years, then I took it over again.

 

Was that your first job? A calculus teacher?

Student Guesses:

1: He was probably a waiter.

2: He was definitely a lifeguard

3: I’d say he was a tutor.

Mr. C’s Answer:

My first job as a teacher, yup.

 

How did your first few weeks [of teaching] go?

Student Guesses:

1: It probably went not so great. Because he had to refresh on some of the materials.

2: It went well. My man knows a lot.

3: It went mediocre.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

It didn’t go smoothly. Well, I learned a lot that first year, because I had taken calculus, but I hadn't taken it for a long time and I sort of had to relearn it as I went. The first year wasn't totally smooth; the second year was much better.

 

If there was a mistake that you learned from the most during your few weeks of teaching at RH, what would that be?

Well, there were probably tons of mistakes.

 

Is there anything vivid that you can point out?

Well, nothing really comes to mind. You’re working on being organized, you’re working on being flexible, you're working on being patient. There's a lot to learn as a new teacher, which all of us have learned over the past year because in this environment we’ve all become new teachers again.

 

What were you doing before you taught at Rowland Hall?

Going to college…

 

So you went right from college to teaching at Rowland Hall. Where did you go to college?

Student Guesses:

1: BYU

2: Dartmouth

3: The U

Mr. C’s Answer

U of U.

 

What led you to be an educator?

Student Guesses:

1: He likes interacting with students.

2: He likes to learn, himself.

3: He had some inspiring teachers when he was in school.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

The real truth is this: After I got my undergraduate degree, I started working on a master's of architecture, but that didn’t go well. I wasn’t particularly well equipped for that. I didn’t have the artistic skills that you needed at the time, so I was dismissed from the school of architecture. And then I thought, “hmm, well I better figure out what I want to do.” So I thought “I’ll get a teaching certificate, and I'll teach for a year or two until I get sorted out.” So here I am getting sorted out.

 

Would you see that dismissal as a positive influence in your life now that you are at Rowland Hall?

Sure. Looking back, I think I ended up where I was supposed to be. I think I was supposed to be a teacher. It wasn’t really on my radar, but I got here, I liked it, it was comfortable. It seemed to work for me, I enjoyed the students, I enjoyed my colleagues, so everything seemed to fit.

 

Decade to decade, have you seen any changes in the way Rowland Hall operated?

I mean, there have been lots of changes. Our society has changed, our culture changes. Education has to change to reflect those changes or accept those changes or work with those changes. So I think that all of those are sort of built in. Different fashion styles and trends, and different educational styles and trends, political changes. You have to roll with all of those things.

 

How do you think Rowland Hall as an institution has “rolled with those things?”

Oh, exceptionally well. I mean we have a huge advantage by being a relatively small school, and it’s much easier to make changes when you’re small. And Rowland Hall has never been content being what they were. They’ve always been: “we need to change, we need to improve, we need to adapt, we need to refine this,” so it's a constant process.

 

Now that we're doing hybrid learning, would you say that you “like” this online style?

Student Guesses:

1: No. Not at all.

2: No. I think he’s sad.

3: Probably not, because he’s used to other systems.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

No, I don’t like it.

 

Do you see any potential advantages of online learning?

Sure, I have learned a ton about technology, which I was way behind on. I feel like I still have lots to learn, but I’ve made good progress. Now, being more fluent with some of these technological tools, it’s a huge asset for supporting Rowmarkers or kids who are at home sick. I have better tools to say “ok, here are the notes from today. Here’s the assignment.” It’s all readily available, and I’m not trying to write an email and send notes home or send something home with a friend. I’d say that communication is much more streamlined, which has a downside but it definitely has an upside.

 

In a hypothetical “after” coronavirus, do you think you’ll have gained valuable communication techniques?

Sure, these are things that I’ll definitely use in the future.

 

Were you born in Salt Lake City?

Student Guesses:

1: He was born in Michigan.

2: He was born in Wisconsin.

3: He was born in Utah.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

Yup. I’m a Salt Lake kid. I graduated from East High and the University of Utah. I haven’t wandered too far from home.

 

What has “kept” you here?

I’m comfortable here. I grew up here, my family’s here. I have a lot of friends and a lot of connections here, so I guess the answer to your question is I'm comfortable here. I mean I like the city, I like the mountains, I like the canyons, I like to ski, I like to hike. There are lots of other places that I’d like to visit, things that interest me, but this feels like home.

 

What would you say is unique about Rowland Hall compared to other schools?

Student Guesses:

1: The tight-knit community.

2: Allows him to capitalize on his teaching abilities.

3: The students here are very academically focused.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

Having not taught at other schools, you don’t really know. Obviously, we compare favorably with public schools because we’re smaller and that’s a huge advantage. To have 15 kids in a classroom instead of 30-35. I have friends that teach at Olympus High, and my job is much more manageable than theirs. And I'm probably a much more effective teacher not because of anything about me but because of the circumstances I get to work with. Like I said, I think there's lots of good schools, I think there's lots of good teachers, I don't really have any experience with anyplace else.

 

What would you say is your favorite aspect of your job as an educator?

When I look back at Rowland Hall, my favorite experiences have been my interim experiences, because I've had really great adventures going off into the wild with students. I’ve just been able to do lots of fun things over the years. I love being outside, I’ve loved the ninth grade trips and things like that. So to me, that's a real jewel for the school is that interim experience. And that's what I look back on. So educationally, I don’t know if there's anything profound. I mean, it's fun to get AP Calculus results in the summer and see how your kids did and say that went well or that didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

 

 

According to Business Insider, most people stay at their jobs for around 4.6 years. Mr. C.’s dedication to teaching at RH has octupled that, at about 37 years. His students regard him as “someone who cares about the learning process” and “someone who understands that learning is more important than one’s grades.” While the learning environment has undoubtedly changed due to coronavirus, Mr. C. is still committed to providing an excellent mathematics education to his students. He is truly appreciated by those who learn from him.

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Profile on Mr. C
Jack Lange

Paul Christensen, better known as Mr. C., is undoubtedly an integral part of the Rowland Hall community. He teaches AP Calculus and Algebra II in the Upper School and has taught at Rowland Hall for over 37 years. For decades, almost anyone who graduated from Rowland Hall has had Mr. C. at least once, and his classes are a hallmark of RH’s rigorous academic program. Below is a transcription of a short interview with Mr. C. I also asked three students to predict Mr. C.'s replies to my questions, and I've put their guesses in before his answers.

 

What was Rowland Hall like when you first came here?

Well, it was much smaller. My first graduating class only had twenty-nine kids.

 

And did you teach calculus then?

I did teach calculus then. But I haven’t taught calculus continuously since then. I taught it for five or ten years and then somebody did it for five or ten years, then I took it over again.

 

Was that your first job? A calculus teacher?

Student Guesses:

1: He was probably a waiter.

2: He was definitely a lifeguard

3: I’d say he was a tutor.

Mr. C’s Answer:

My first job as a teacher, yup.

 

How did your first few weeks [of teaching] go?

Student Guesses:

1: It probably went not so great. Because he had to refresh on some of the materials.

2: It went well. My man knows a lot.

3: It went mediocre.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

It didn’t go smoothly. Well, I learned a lot that first year, because I had taken calculus, but I hadn't taken it for a long time and I sort of had to relearn it as I went. The first year wasn't totally smooth; the second year was much better.

 

If there was a mistake that you learned from the most during your few weeks of teaching at RH, what would that be?

Well, there were probably tons of mistakes.

 

Is there anything vivid that you can point out?

Well, nothing really comes to mind. You’re working on being organized, you’re working on being flexible, you're working on being patient. There's a lot to learn as a new teacher, which all of us have learned over the past year because in this environment we’ve all become new teachers again.

 

What were you doing before you taught at Rowland Hall?

Going to college…

 

So you went right from college to teaching at Rowland Hall. Where did you go to college?

Student Guesses:

1: BYU

2: Dartmouth

3: The U

Mr. C’s Answer

U of U.

 

What led you to be an educator?

Student Guesses:

1: He likes interacting with students.

2: He likes to learn, himself.

3: He had some inspiring teachers when he was in school.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

The real truth is this: After I got my undergraduate degree, I started working on a master's of architecture, but that didn’t go well. I wasn’t particularly well equipped for that. I didn’t have the artistic skills that you needed at the time, so I was dismissed from the school of architecture. And then I thought, “hmm, well I better figure out what I want to do.” So I thought “I’ll get a teaching certificate, and I'll teach for a year or two until I get sorted out.” So here I am getting sorted out.

 

Would you see that dismissal as a positive influence in your life now that you are at Rowland Hall?

Sure. Looking back, I think I ended up where I was supposed to be. I think I was supposed to be a teacher. It wasn’t really on my radar, but I got here, I liked it, it was comfortable. It seemed to work for me, I enjoyed the students, I enjoyed my colleagues, so everything seemed to fit.

 

Decade to decade, have you seen any changes in the way Rowland Hall operated?

I mean, there have been lots of changes. Our society has changed, our culture changes. Education has to change to reflect those changes or accept those changes or work with those changes. So I think that all of those are sort of built in. Different fashion styles and trends, and different educational styles and trends, political changes. You have to roll with all of those things.

 

How do you think Rowland Hall as an institution has “rolled with those things?”

Oh, exceptionally well. I mean we have a huge advantage by being a relatively small school, and it’s much easier to make changes when you’re small. And Rowland Hall has never been content being what they were. They’ve always been: “we need to change, we need to improve, we need to adapt, we need to refine this,” so it's a constant process.

 

Now that we're doing hybrid learning, would you say that you “like” this online style?

Student Guesses:

1: No. Not at all.

2: No. I think he’s sad.

3: Probably not, because he’s used to other systems.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

No, I don’t like it.

 

Do you see any potential advantages of online learning?

Sure, I have learned a ton about technology, which I was way behind on. I feel like I still have lots to learn, but I’ve made good progress. Now, being more fluent with some of these technological tools, it’s a huge asset for supporting Rowmarkers or kids who are at home sick. I have better tools to say “ok, here are the notes from today. Here’s the assignment.” It’s all readily available, and I’m not trying to write an email and send notes home or send something home with a friend. I’d say that communication is much more streamlined, which has a downside but it definitely has an upside.

 

In a hypothetical “after” coronavirus, do you think you’ll have gained valuable communication techniques?

Sure, these are things that I’ll definitely use in the future.

 

Were you born in Salt Lake City?

Student Guesses:

1: He was born in Michigan.

2: He was born in Wisconsin.

3: He was born in Utah.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

Yup. I’m a Salt Lake kid. I graduated from East High and the University of Utah. I haven’t wandered too far from home.

 

What has “kept” you here?

I’m comfortable here. I grew up here, my family’s here. I have a lot of friends and a lot of connections here, so I guess the answer to your question is I'm comfortable here. I mean I like the city, I like the mountains, I like the canyons, I like to ski, I like to hike. There are lots of other places that I’d like to visit, things that interest me, but this feels like home.

 

What would you say is unique about Rowland Hall compared to other schools?

Student Guesses:

1: The tight-knit community.

2: Allows him to capitalize on his teaching abilities.

3: The students here are very academically focused.

Mr. C.’s Answer:

Having not taught at other schools, you don’t really know. Obviously, we compare favorably with public schools because we’re smaller and that’s a huge advantage. To have 15 kids in a classroom instead of 30-35. I have friends that teach at Olympus High, and my job is much more manageable than theirs. And I'm probably a much more effective teacher not because of anything about me but because of the circumstances I get to work with. Like I said, I think there's lots of good schools, I think there's lots of good teachers, I don't really have any experience with anyplace else.

 

What would you say is your favorite aspect of your job as an educator?

When I look back at Rowland Hall, my favorite experiences have been my interim experiences, because I've had really great adventures going off into the wild with students. I’ve just been able to do lots of fun things over the years. I love being outside, I’ve loved the ninth grade trips and things like that. So to me, that's a real jewel for the school is that interim experience. And that's what I look back on. So educationally, I don’t know if there's anything profound. I mean, it's fun to get AP Calculus results in the summer and see how your kids did and say that went well or that didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

 

 

According to Business Insider, most people stay at their jobs for around 4.6 years. Mr. C.’s dedication to teaching at RH has octupled that, at about 37 years. His students regard him as “someone who cares about the learning process” and “someone who understands that learning is more important than one’s grades.” While the learning environment has undoubtedly changed due to coronavirus, Mr. C. is still committed to providing an excellent mathematics education to his students. He is truly appreciated by those who learn from him.

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