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Sugar House Journal

Retired Highland music teacher honored

Feb 01, 2018 08h48 ● By Natalie Mollinet

Paul Christensen (Mr. C) with his son Tony who both still play duets on the piano and entertain audiences on Mr. C's own grand piano. (Photo/Tony Christensen)

The teachers who are remembered most are the ones that pushed students to their limits and helped them see their true potential. One of those teachers, Paul Christensen, taught students at Highland High School for 30 years as Highland’s choral director. Even though he hasn’t taught at Highland for some time, the love and appreciation his former students have for him hasn’t been forgotten. Last December, the Salt Lake Education Foundation presented a new scholarship in Christensen’s honor. 

“He taught my mother and us, how many teachers do that? And in the same school?” said Mark Mollinet, one of Christensen’s former students who attended the celebration. 

The Salt Lake Education Foundation presented a new scholarship in his honor during a Christmas concert at Cottonwood Place Senior Living community. Former students from Highland sang for him with many of those songs’ renditions written by Christensen. 

Students said he was a favorite at Highland and they’d call him Mr. C. One of his students Mark Christensen, said his hobbies and high school life would be different if not for Mr. C. Mark had planned to take shop with all his buddies at Highland, but the class had filled up, so he signed up for choir. The counselors assured him that if a spot in shop opened, they would let him know and he could switch out. 

“So, about a week later, the counselors had told me a spot in shop opened so I went and got the slip signed by the shop teacher and then went to take it to Mr. C,” Mark explained. He then went into Mr. C’s office and asked him to sign the slip. Mark explained the change had nothing to do with the teaching, but Mr. C asked if he would stick out the class for another week and if he didn’t like it then he’d sign the slip. In the end, Mark stayed in the class, expanded his group of friends, even meeting the guy who would be the best man at his wedding. 

“I wouldn’t have tried out for the school musical if I hadn’t stayed,” Mark said. He would later become the lead of Highland’s musical “Oklahoma!” his senior year. Mark also participated in Highland’s Madrigals that Mr. C directed, and his children would also be apart of the same group when they attended Highland, thanks to the simple encouragement of Mr. C. 

Mr. C is now 88 years old, but still as chipper as ever and students, to this day, take time to go visit him at the Cottonwood Place Senior Living Center in Murray. He plays duets with his son regularly on his personal grand piano for fellow residents and he even hosts private parties at his residence. 

“He was a beloved teacher by multiple generations,” Mollinet added. “I think what makes him unique is the length of his career and that was almost entirely at Highland.” 

The scholarship is a recognition of his passion and dedication to music and his students, so it’s no surprise that a scholarship is named after him. “Mr. C Scholarship and Artistic Achievement in Vocal Performance” will help aspiring singers across the valley. The idea came from Cherilyn Eager, the marketing director for the senior center, after she saw so many former students visit him and share in the memories at Highland. This scholarship can continue Mr. C’s way of contributing to students’ passion for music. 

“It was very heartwarming to see what an impact he’s had on so many people and he’s still remembered for that,” Tony Christensen, Mr. C’s son said. “Now hopefully that impact can continue into the future.”