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Original teacher retires after 36 years (UPDATE, VIDEO)

UPDATE: 9/30
To celebrate Martha Lange’s retirement after 36 years of teaching on campus, the school is hosting a retirement party at 6:30 p.m., Sept. 30. The event plans to celebrate Lange’s lengthy career at FC with a dessert reception that includes a video to honors her services.

Lange has been a part of the faculty since Fresno Christian’s opening day in 1977. Attendees were encouraged to RSVP to the event with Gary Shultz at 559.299.1695. ext. 108. The reception will be held in the Ground Zero (Student Ministries Center).

Since the time that FC opened its doors in 1977, its focus has been on preparing its students for life and strengthening them in their Christian walk by learning to think critically, communicate effectively and be educated scripturally. Many staff members have taught for a few years and then moved on, but a few have been on campus since the beginning.

Former second-grade teacher Martha Lange was one of the foundational few, but in May of 2013, after 36 years of teaching second grade, Lange announced her retirement.

When Lange showed up at the first meeting FC held to inform the Fresno community of their new education program, she thought she would just be enrolling her daughter a couple of years later. Little did she know that she would end up teaching there for the rest of her teaching career.

“I was very happy teaching in Fresno Unified when my husband and I attended the first meeting that was held at the original Peoples Church to tell the public about this new school,” Lange said. “Our daughter was three at the time and we were interested in sending her to begin kindergarten. I had never had a calling except to the dinner table, but on the way home, I told my husband that I felt the Lord wanted me to apply; the rest is 36 years of blessings.”

Teaching is a difficult career choice, but Lange stayed with it because she loved sharing her knowledge with the kids in her class, instilling in them a desire to learn, and encouraging them in their relationships with Jesus, as well as getting to know them and their families.

“My favorite part of working at FC was serving and sharing the Lord with so many hundreds of children and their families,” Lange said. “Also, I loved being able to sit at the feet of so many Godly people. The only reason I stayed so long is the love of my Lord, teaching children and meeting and building friendships with the children’s families.”

Campus principal Todd Bennett worked with Lange for three years after he came to FC in 2009. Bennett loved working with Lange, not only for the laughter and joy she brought to the school, but for the genuine care and love she showed each of the students and families that went through her classroom.

“She is an outstanding teacher, and was an institution at Fresno Christian,” Bennett said. “I am happy for her because she is starting a new chapter in her life, but I will miss having her at FC. She instilled a love of learning in her students. Mrs. Lange has a great sense of humor, and she truly cares about her students, their families and Fresno Christian.”

Although Bennett was Lange’s principal, he gained much from working with her and will miss her advice and encouragement, as well as the peace, positivity and good perspective that she exuded. Through her presence at FC, he was encouraged to not make problems seem bigger than they were, and to focus on what really matters: the students.

“Martha is a positive person and fun to be around,” Bennett said. “She brought a sense of calm to the campus. I will miss her wisdom and reassuring nature. She doesn’t let little things bother her, and she always kept the focus on teaching students about Jesus Christ. Working with her was a great experience because it helped me to put things in the proper perspective.”

Because she had taught at FC for so long, many of the FC alumni who have come back to the school to teach went through Lange’s class, including junior high history and English teacher Eric Witters, ’04, and high school English teacher and yearbook advisor Amy Deffenbacher, ’94. Although it was long ago that they were in her class, her former students remember well the impact that she had on them as second-graders.

“I was a quiet, compliant student,” Deffenbacher said. “We did cooking centers in her class and I got caught eating spoons full of brown sugar instead of putting it into my recipe. It was one of the few times I got into trouble and I have never forgotten it, but she dealt with me kindly. She was fun, spunky, and unforgettable. You do not encounter a teacher like Mrs. Lange and go away unchanged.”

Lange remembers a few stories herself from her classes over the years, namely incidents with all types of animals including birds, reptiles and rodents.

“I’ve had five snakes in five different years get loose in my classroom,” Lange said. “One day a bluejay flew in the door and left droppings all over the room, as well as all over me. Early one morning a mouse leapt out of my cabinets and landed on my chest and I landed on the floor. The most unbelievable creature that appeared in my room before school was a turkey, yes, a turkey. Luckily for me I had some Cheerios on my desk and I started feeding it and walked it out of the school grounds.”

As most teachers can testify, students, especially young ones, usually say whatever comes into their heads, and often the responses from fellow classmates are just as unexpected. Lange has had a few run-ins with this fact of life, but this specific occurrence specifically sticks out to her even nine years later.

Ivette Ibarra, ’15, and some other little ones were visiting with me while I was on yard duty,” Lange said. “They were telling me that they were almost as tall as me. One of them asked me why I was so short. I started to answer when very politely Ivette replied, ‘Mrs. Lange hasn’t had her growth spurt yet!'”

Perhaps the most surprising of these episodes with her classes happened during the school’s first year. Although the school lost a soccer ball as a result of this incident, Lange had a perfect opportunity to explain to her second graders about the importance of prayer, especially for those who wrong them.

“The first year at FCS the children’s playground was facing Cedar Ave,” Lange said. “I was on duty when one of the children kicked a soccer ball over the fence onto the busy street. The children raced to the fence and a car stopped. I told the children to thank the man who stopped and picked up the ball. The man who picked up the ball got back into his car and drove away with it! The children were speechless. I said that’s why we always need to pray for people especially that man who took your ball.”

FC superintendent Debbie Siebert admired Lange’s special ability as a teacher, colleague and friend to not only teach her students what they needed to learn, but also to love and care for them, as well as everyone else who she came into contact with.

“Mrs. Lange has a special gift for making people feel comfortable and at ease,” Siebert said. “I always appreciated how she took a special interest in the children and families God placed in her care and I know she built lifelong loving relationships with these families. Her bright spirit and genuine friendliness draw people in.”

Siebert worked with Lange at FC from 1989 through last year, first as a teacher and later as superintendent. Throughout their whole time as colleagues, though, Siebert was always able to find encouragement, support, and advice from her whenever she visited Lange’s classroom.

“I am grateful to have served along side Mrs. Lange for 24 years,” Siebert said. “It was such a privilege to share this ministry with someone who opened the school and who truly understands the founding mission and vision for Fresno Christian. I often looked to her as a sounding board. Whenever I needed encouragement I would stop by Mrs. Lange’s room before school ‘just to chat.’ I would always go away feeling inspired and supported. She was a trusted colleague and I will miss having her so available.”

Although Lange enjoyed every year that she was able to teach at FC, she saw this year as an opportune time to retire. Not only were some changes happening at FC, but she was also expecting her first grandson and she knew that her daughter was going to need some help taking care of the little one.

“I just couldn’t see myself teaching any place else than at the Northeast Campus,” Lange said. “At the very same time our daughter was expecting her first baby and was stressing over who would take care of her precious boy while she was teaching. God always has things in control so I asked if she would consider me as a nanny for my grandson, and I was hired. I have a little red golf cart which I now drive over one block to take care of my new little grandson, Ryder Eugene Klikna. He’s a little man that’s going to hear all my stories about Jesus and the children I have taught.”

Lange looks forward to the time that she will now have with her grandson, but she knows that she will miss being able to interact with and show her students what it means to live for Christ as well as strive for excellence in learning.

“I miss my fellow teaching partners, as we were either laughing, crying or praying with each other,” Lange said. “I wasn’t perfect by any means but I also miss talking and praying with the children. They all became a part of my life. My life has forever been changed because I was blessed over and over by the little ones I taught.”

There will be a retirement dessert reception held in honor of Lange on Monday, Sept. 30, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in the Student Ministry Center Main Room at the PC campus. All FC alumni, as well as current families, are invited to attend this event and be a part of the memories, dessert and fellowship. As well as presenting a gift to Lange for her years of faithful service to FC, the faculty will be starting and dedicating the Martha Lange Scholarship fund for FC.

To contribute a donation towards Lange?s retirement gift and celebration, please send your contribution to FCS, 7280 N. Cedar Ave., Fresno, CA 93720. To contribute to the Martha Lange Scholarship fund, please go to the FC homepage and select ONLINE GIVING located on the right hand panel.

If you have a special memory of Lange, an encouraging message for her or any pictures you would like her to see, please send them to Fresno Christian marked for “Mrs. Lange?s Retirement” or email them to [email protected].

If you would like to be a part of the team putting this event on, please contact
Gary Schultz at 559.299.1695, ext. 108.

This writer can be reached on Twitter at @JennaWeimer42.

Follow The Feather via Twitter at: @thefeather.

For more features, read the Sept. 3 article, Part One: One campus solidifies theme, ‘We Are One: Growing in Christ’.

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    Zoe HouseFeb 8, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I loved Pirate day, even though I had nothing to wear. The pirate ship is perfect, by the way.