Former Washougal teacher to lead Canyon Creek Middle School

Brian Amundson to replace retiring principal Sandi Christensen

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A former Washougal School District teacher and administrator has been selected to become the next principal at Canyon Creek Middle School.

Brian Amundson, currently the principal at Tukes Valley Middle School in Battle Ground, will take over for Canyon Creek principal Sandi Christensen, who is retiring after leading the school for 16 years.

“Brian brings a wealth of experience, desire and passion to this work,” Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton stated in a recent blog post, “and we are very excited to officially welcome him back to Washougal.”

Ammundson began his career teaching social studies at Washougal High School for 15 years, then served as the dean of students at Jemtegaard Middle School for three years before moving to his current position in 2016.

“It’s bittersweet because I’m 100-percent excited to return to Washougal, but leaving a job that I love,” Amundson said. “Canyon Creek was on my short list of schools. I didn’t expect that to happen now; I thought Sandi would wait a few more years to retire, so I was caught off guard. But I’ve known for awhile that Canyon Creek is a special place, so I knew that I wanted to throw my hat into the ring.”

Amundson said he is “absolutely passionate about middle school in all its glory.”

“Middle school is a rough age for kids to try to figure things out, and our job as adults is to help them figure things out and not be judgemental,” he said. “The two questions I ask myself as a middle-school principal are, ‘Why do kids want to come to school?’ and ‘Why do kids want to learn?’ If we center our work around answering those two questions, we’ll do a lot of things right.”

Amundson played a major role in helping to improve the culture at Jemtegaard, according to that school’s principal, David Cooke.

“Brian had a great relationship with staff and students,” Cooke said. “He balanced high expectations with empathy and consistency, which was needed. He was an excellent communicator with students, parents and community members. The (Jemtegaard) staff was sad to see him leave four years ago, but is now thrilled to have him back in Washougal. Canyon Creek is getting a leader who ‘walks the talk’ and advocates for all students. I look forward to working with Brian again so that our middle schools can grow together and build the best foundation for future success at Washougal High School.”

Amundson grew up in Renton, Washington, and attended Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Washington, where he originally intended to study criminal justice but soon gravitated to education after discovering a passion for history.

He met his future wife, Kristina, in college. Kristina had grown up in Vancouver and expressed a desire to return to Southwest Washington after graduating. Coincidentally, Amundson was assigned a student-teaching position at Washougal High, and he and Kristina have lived in Clark County ever since.

“(My previous tenure in Washougal) was definitely positive,” Amundson said. “I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything; it shaped me as an educator and a person. I attribute a lot of what I have been able to do in my career and personal life to my time in Washougal.”

Kristina has worked for the Camas School District since 1997, and currently serves as a sixth-grade teacher at Skyridge Middle School. The Camas residents have three children — Alyssa, 20, a Washington State University-Vancouver student; Jakob, 19, who is finishing his freshman year at Boise State University; and Megan, 17, who will graduate from Camas High School this week and is set to attend Boise State in the fall.

Retiring principal was ‘champion for Washougal School District’

Christensen recently fulfilled a longtime desire to become a dog owner by adopting two basset hound puppies, knowing that she’ll finally have the chance to give her pets more attention.

In mid-March, Christensen told Washougal School District leaders of her plans to retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

“I’d been thinking about (retiring) for the past couple of years, but I had to get my head and heart in the same space,” she said. “(The timing) just felt right. There’s a lot of really good work being done right now, and I’m sorry that I won’t see the end result of that work, but it’s a good time to pass (the responsibilities) on to someone else. I’m sad to leave, but I think the school is in a good place, and the staff is on top of its game right now.”

“Sandi has been such a champion for the Washougal School District,” Templeton stated in a news release issued by the district. “We admire her care for students, her connection with the community, her unwavering support of her staff and her commitment to learning. Her wisdom, experience and great sense of humor will be greatly missed.”

After beginning her teaching career at the Evergreen School District, she came to the Washougal district in 1994 as a part-time teacher and substitute educator. In 1995, she took a job teaching math and science at Jemtegaard. In 2002, she became that school’s associate principal. Two years later, in 2004, she moved into her current role as Canyon Creek’s principal.

“Middle-schoolers are funny and quirky, and they make me laugh. I’ll miss being around the positive energy they bring,” Christensen said. “I think being an administrator fits my personality better. It was easier for me to learn to be an administrator than learn how to be a teacher. I enjoy working with kids, but I also enjoy working with adults and seeing the big picture and helping to change the system, which is hard to do.

Under Christensen’s leadership, Canyon Creek earned the title of Washington State School of Distinction in 2007, 2016 and 2017.

“I have so much respect and admiration for Sandi,” said Canyon Creek library assistant Holly Vonderohe, who has worked with Christensen for the past 16 years. “She cares about all students no matter what, and she cares about her staff, too. Sandi also carefully considers what she is going to say and how to say it in a positive manner, and she is a great listener. Sandi has always been a staunch library supporter, and I very much appreciate this. She even has a ‘little free library’ at her home. I will miss Sandi very much.”

Julie Ferguson, the school district’s administrative assistant, has known Christensen since 1994 and said she will remember the principal as a positive and friendly person who had a great sense of humor and good rapport with students.

Christensen said she hopes to take advantage of her science knowledge in retirement.

“Actually, my dream was always to go to medical school and become a doctor,” she said. “I was a candy striper in high school, and I’ve always had an interest in biomedical ethics. I could see myself doing some volunteer work with hospice or organ donation. I had a trip to Europe planned for this summer, but that was postponed. I’d like to travel, but that’s on the backburner for now.”