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Former ‘Billies’ teacher tough on spelling, grammar invests in the future of education at Pleasant Hill

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‘I have invested a lot of myself — mentally, physically and emotionally — during the 28 years of teaching in Pleasant Hill,’ says Christine Luehring. Dean Rea/The Herald

By DEAN REA/Editor/The Herald — A former teacher known as a “stickler for correct spelling and grammar” was surprised when she saw a copy of a $250,000 endowment check on which her investment company had misspelled Pleasant Hill Education Foundation as “Pleasant Gill.”

Interest from the endowment by Christine Luehring will enhance future academics, field trips, projects and teacher training in the Pleasant Hill School District.

“The majority of her life has been dedicated to serving the Billies of Pleasant Hill, and with this gift, she will continue to have an impact for years to come,” said Jennifer Anderson, the foundation’s executive director.  “She has been a blessing to our community. She’s an amazing person who has assisted the foundation by serving on the grant and scholarship committees.”

Christine, who often is called Chris by friends, taught English from 1974 to 2002, advised the “Billie Bulletin” student newspaper for 13 years and was the cheerleading coach for 17 years.

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Christine Luehring advised the Madras school newspaper. Dean Rea/The Herald

“I decided to be a teacher in the first grade,” Luehring said during an interview. She attended school in Sweet Home and in 1969 graduated from the Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) in Monmouth where she “almost got a technical foul” as a “vocal” spectator during a basketball game.

While visiting Madras High School with a group of friends, she learned the school was looking for an English teacher. A short time later, this personable young woman was teaching English classes, learning how to be a journalist while serving as the adviser to the student newspaper, the “White Buffalo.”

During her five years in Madras, Luehring said she fell in love with the Native American people and the culture. “I cherish those years,” she said.

In 1974 she learned about the English teaching position in Pleasant Hill two weeks before classes began. She was assigned to teach freshman language arts classes and to serve as the student newspaper adviser.

“I was a tough and strict teacher,” she admits, “but I interacted well with students.”

Former students admire her

Travis Tubbs, a 2001 graduate and former student body president, said Luehring expected a lot of her students but that she “really took time in relationship building.” The former varsity wrestler who won a state championship said Luehring, who he often referred to as Chris, went beyond the worksheets and textbooks in working with students.

“We would sit down and talk with one another,” he said during an interview. “Her favorite thing was to find misspelled words on billboards, and students would report spelling errors they would find to her.

“She had a huge impact on my life. She inspired my interest in education.”

Today, Tubbs lives in Eugene with his family and is the assistant director of Teach Northwest Charter Schools.

Sheri Bryson, a 1993 graduate who works with Luehring as a foundation member, said Luehring expected a lot of students “but really wanted to help you learn.” Bryson was a member of a  freshman English class taught by Luehring, who “would help anyone who was struggling, even with another class.”

“You could hear her laugh in her classroom as you walked down the hall,” Bryson said during an interview.

Bryson said that Luehring’s influence still lurks in the background as she writes and edits documents as a volunteer in the foundation office.

Her former teacher has influenced Bryson in other ways, including: “You can give back by being there for someone.”

Heidi Barber, a 1993 graduate who is now a transcriptionist in Pleasant Hill, said Luehring was “always encouraging” to her as a cheerleading member.

“I was shy,” Barber said during an interview, “but she would say, ‘You can do it. Go out there and do your best.’

“She was strict, but she had a soft side,” Barber said. “Her door was always open before and after school, and she was always willing to help you.”

“She was a stickler for spelling and grammar, and today when I am reading something and a word is misspelled, I think of her. And when I write something, I read it twice to make sure I don’t make a mistake.”

Coached 17 years

Three years after Luehring joined the Pleasant Hill staff, she began a 17-year career as the cheerleading coach. In 1999 she was chosen as the state “Coach of the Year” and is a member of the “Hall of Fame.”

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Christine Luehring says she posted ‘GOD BLESS AMERICA’ on her car to help her spot it in parking lots. Dean Rea/The Herald

She loves sports and noted with some satisfaction that Madras won the boys’ basketball title during her first year there and that the Billies won the state football title during her first year at Pleasant Hill.

Luehring, who is single, is a nurturer who befriended a student who became “like a daughter” and is considered part of the family today. Luehring also helped with food basket drives, the school Tragedy Response Team and other community service projects. She was an officer in an international society for women in education.

Although this 74-year-old dynamo has been slowed a bit by health issues that require her to use a walker, she continues to travel in a 2005 PT Cruiser. The words “GOD BLESS AMERICA” are displayed on the back on a magnetic banner. She placed it there “so I would know where I am parked when attending a meeting,” she said with a laugh.

The blue car is parked at a house in rural Pleasant Hill where Luehring is surrounded by books and memorabilia that speak of her love of and dedication to education.

However, she doubts that she would choose to become a teacher today.

“The burden placed on teachers is overwhelming,” she said. The burden includes “things that are not subject-related” plus the restrictions placed on teachers as well as students because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, why donate $250,000 to the Pleasant Hill Education Foundation to enhance educational opportunities for students?

“I have invested a lot of myself — mentally, physically and emotionally — during the 28 years of teaching in Pleasant Hill,” she said. “Now, I am able to invest financially, which seems appropriate because many of my investments are a result of my teaching.

“I decided to do it now rather than to wait until I die so that I can have some input into how it is used and can see the results.”

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