As one of the original faculty here at Bellevue College, Pauline Christiansen has had 45 years of experience teaching in the Arts and Sciences, a hand in nearly every technical and creative endeavor here at the college as well as an enviable list of awards under her belt. Having always been an active doer with a passion for teaching, Christiansen is certainly no stranger to the cover of the BC’s student publications. But this occasion is a special one, as spring 2012 marks Christiansen’s last quarter as a teacher here with us. She has been a constant presence at this school since the second year of its existence, and will be sorely missed by her students and peers alike.
Christiansen was first hired in 1967, back when Bellevue Community College was a night-school using the facility at Newport High School after hours. She participated directly in developing the school’s policies and programs along with a small core group of other faculty. “It was very exciting,” Christiansen commented about the early stages of education at BCC. “We had good people…and you know there’s something special about working at a college because people aren’t there for the money.”
As an English professor, Christiansen was able to facilitate the formation of the English Department, which was the first division to be formed at the school. Though she had not intended to play a leading role initially, she was unanimously elected by her peers to be the first chair of the Bellevue Community College English Department. From that point on, Christiansen has never backed down in her efforts to improve the quality of education, both in the planning meeting and within the classroom.
She independently researched and implemented the change from a three to a five credit writing program at BC, which meant calling up every community college in the state to get their personal point of view. “We won,” Christiansen said triumphantly of the implementation of this change. “And the best part is that two years after we began using the five credit system, the University of Washington followed our lead!”
Christiansen was also largely responsible for developing the extensive range of literature offerings which put BC’s English program above any other community college system in the state. She worked closely with the other faculty members to offer students optimum flexibility and variety in their classes. “We were able to plan ahead,” she said. “We would sit down and ask each other questions like: What worked for you in college? And what would you have liked to change if you had the chance again?”
During her time at BC Christiansen has taught every kind of literature class under the sun, from a series of interdisciplinary classes with both the music and art departments to the most basic grammar comprehensive. She has collected materials to develop a European Literature class, developed multiple technological advances for the use of students, presented papers at College Communications and Composition Conferences around the country and given over 19 different workshops locally. Her published works include “From Inside Out,” the first textbook to be published by the Arts and Humanities at Bellevue College, which has been used in 19 colleges nationwide.
Her clear commitment to teaching and to her students has been recognized multiple times through various awards, including the Exemplary Status Award in Humanities as well as the Bellevue Community College’s Margin of Excellence Award for outstanding teaching.
But having the delightfully fun, energetic personality that she does, Christiansen has never taken herself too seriously and is always willing to share a fond memory or crazy story about her experiences. She is like family to those she works with here on campus. “You can tell that she loves her students,” said Katherine Oleson, Chair of the Commmunication Studies Department here at BC. “She has contributed so much to the college.”
In considering her favorite moments while at Bellevue College, Christiansen could not mention her students enough. “I have always loved teaching, and that feeling when you look out from the front of the classroom and see your students immersed and absorbed in what you’re saying… it’s an aha moment,” she said. Christiansen will indeed be missed.