A tunnel of 200 expectant faces lined the outdoor hallway at Inglemoor High School (IHS) on June 9.
They were all waiting to surprise one man who has left a lasting influence on their lives.
Ted Christensen has led the IHS music program for the past 36 years. He is retiring this year after teaching for a total of 38 years.
During his time at the school, he had had 40 drum majors, led 140 concerts, taken his students on more than 30 trips, led more than 20 parades, and the list goes on.
However, it isn’t as much about what he’s done or how long he’s been the school’s band director. To his students, his friends, family and his community — it’s only been about what he’s given to others.
Now, his family and students want to give something back to him.
Cathy Christensen, his wife, Erin Christensen, assistant teacher and former student, Lily Bechtel another former student, joined together to host a celebration for Ted.
“It’s so well-deserved,” Cathy said. “It’s been a pleasure to walk alongside him all these years and see the lives he’s touched.”
The party has been in the works for the past year.
“It was Cathy’s idea,” Bechtel said. “We were so sad to hear he was retiring but we were excited to be part of planning this for him.”
They put out the call to IHS band alumni to see how many people would be interested in celebrating Christensen.
“The response was overwhelming,” Erin said. “It just showed how instrumental he is in students’ lives.”
Alumni from every year Ted taught were present for the celebration.
Ray Alejandro (class of 1988), Geoffrey Simpson and Ron Gilchrist (class of 1989) enjoyed reminiscing of their high school band days while looking at old photographs.
Thirty years after graduating high school, they said Ted left a lasting influence on them.
“He was easily one of my favorite teachers from high school,” Gilchrist said. “He made me love music and he always brought out the best in his students…He really saw you and connected with you as more than just a student.”
They said they came back to honor Ted because they wanted to wish him well and tell him the effect he had on them.
“We wanted to come back and sort of remember the magic,” Alejandro said. “He was a big part in that.”
The ceremony was held in the school’s gym. There was a series of speakers, including his daughter and former student, Emma Christensen, former student and drum major, Matthew Brown, family friend, Debbie Lucas, friend and colleague, Jim Rice, and Northshore School District Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid.
All the speakers highlighted their favorite memories of Ted and how he influenced their lives.
Emma said her father created a community with his students — who then became family. Experiencing him both as a father and as a teacher shaped her into who the person she is today.
“I’ve spent my life watching my dad change and affect lives. He showed me that I can change the world just by being there and being kind,” she said. “He is the best mentor, teacher and dad I could ask for.”
Rice, a former colleague, said Ted added value to everyone’s lives.
“You’re all here because of the value Ted put in your life,” he said. “You’ve felt that value and you’ll pass that along…Ted always wanted to make himself more valuable [so] he could be better and do what’s right.”
Ted said he was grateful for the celebration as well as all the years he spent at IHS.
“You need to understand that staying 36 years in the same place — there’s a reason for that,” he said. “This has been the best place to work.”
He said he feels he always received more from his students than he felt he gave them.
“You all have given more than I’ve given,” he said. “All I did was try my best to set their table up for success…I’ve always thought that if you expect the best in people that you’ll usually find it.”
The celebrating isn’t over for Ted. On June 10, Kenmore City Council designated June 14 as Ted Christensen Day.
“This all has really affirmed everything that he is,” Cathy said. “It’s always been about the kids for him.”