Christine Clarke
Christine Clarke

Career teacher Christine Clarke advocates for volunteering with everyone she meets. “I really enjoy volunteering at the OHG Education Farm,” she says.  “The most beneficial learning involves getting your hands in the dirt.”

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Christine Clarke

A stint volunteering as a tutor led Christine Clarke to a teaching career.  Armed with a degree in science, Clarke ventured to Orange County from Wisconsin and found herself serving with the Literacy Volunteers of America—an experience that would change her life.

“I discovered that teaching was my love and calling,” recalls Clarke.

That led Clarke to earn her master’s degree in science education.  Soon after, in 1986, she began teaching in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District at Sonora High School where she would spend the next 27 years.

“It’s very unusual to spend an entire teaching career at one school in one district,” notes Clarke.

She began her tenure teaching Earth science and astronomy and worked into chemistry and physics, eventually meeting the love of her life, who taught biology next door.

“Much has been made of the ‘chemistry’ and the ‘biology’ that brought Tom and I together,” laughs Clarke.

While they taught in Fullerton, they made the conscious choice to not live in the zone where their students lived and bought a house in Orange.

“We never had children of our own, and we were both incredibly committed to our school, attending every game, theater performance and prom,” says Clarke.  “As much as we loved our students, the only way we felt we could have a boundary was to not be living down the street from them.”

Clarke says that she and her husband both thrived on teaching, so it made working together easy.  “We would chaperone each other’s field trips,” she says.

Outside the classroom, the Clarkes coordinated an annual food drive at the school where students collected money used to shop for and deliver to individual families.

“She’s very student oriented, that’s her hallmark,” says Ken Stichter, former Sonora high school principal.  “If we asked any student who had her, I bet they would say she is one of the best teachers they ever had.”

Upon retirement, Clarke became the volunteer coordinator for the Orange Home Grown Education Farm.

“I kind of stumbled into the role, but it fits into my philosophies of hands-on and lifelong learning,” says Clarke.  “The Education Farm is a welcoming community space to learn about gardening.  It’s open every Friday from 9 to 11:30 am, and you need no background.”

The Clarkes have lived in Orange for 35 years.  “Until I retired and had excess time, I don’t think I really appreciated our community,” says Clarke.  “Now I’m just so delighted that we found Orange. Both of us feel this way.”

Christine Clarke
[email protected]

Article Published in the
Mar / Apr 24 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by Sheri Ledbetter Photo by Kristin Smetona
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