MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — From the field to the classroom, some teachers just do it all.

James Christensen is a prime example of what it means to be a leader in the classroom, not just to his students, but to other educators as well.

Christensen will be the first to tell you that for him, teaching is a family business.

“It kind of runs in my family quite a bit, my grandfather was a social studies teacher for a long time, my mother taught music here and at Aplington Parkersburg, and then my wife is an excellent Title 1 teacher at St. Francis School. So, kind of a family business,” said Christensen.

inspiring students in the classroom as a Spanish teacher, and on the field as a coach for tennis and football.

Aside from the students, Christensen also inspires the next generation of educators.

Jacque Wyant, Principal at Marshalltown High School said that Christensen has “done so many wonderful things, not only for our students but he’s also the first one to volunteer to take student teachers on.”

And does a good job, being that his student teacher was the one who nominated him for the Golden Apple Award.

“It takes a very special teacher to take a teacher in training, especially in today’s teaching environment. There is a lot of turmoil, and a teacher shortage happening. so, to take me in, I myself am still learning what to do, given all the stress he has to endure, and then doing it and blowing it out of the park,” said Beka Bell, nominator and student teacher.

With family and friends there to support his accomplishment, Christensen says he truly was surprised, as so many teachers deserve this award.

“When they started describing the person, I started getting a little more nervous once they said that they were a coach, and like ‘uh-oh’ and then I heard my name called and it was just kind of a surreal moment,” said Christensen.

A bobcat himself, Christensen says that winning the Golden Apple Award is truly a full-circle moment as an educator, saying “I’ve always been a bobcat, I will always be a bobcat. I loved my time here as a student and had some phenomenal teachers here, some of which I get to teach alongside here now.”

Other bobcats praise Christensen for his fun and lively approach to teaching. Using unique projects, like producing a commercial entirely in Spanish to keep his students engaged while creating an active learning environment. Leading students to sign up for upper-level Spanish classes.

“Bottom line, if a student isn’t having fun they are not going to want to be here, so the fact that James does that, and he strives to make his class fun and make kids want to sign up for Spanish 3 and 4, I think that is so important, it speaks volumes,” said Bell.

Christensen knows that when it comes to teaching high schoolers, connection is key.

“I work with some awesome kids on a daily basis here and they deserve the best. so you have to come every day ready to match what they’re willing to give you,” said Christensen.

Saying that connection motivates students to be their very best.

“They know whether you’re all in or not and you’ve got to be willing to put in the work and develop good lessons, coach well, care about them, and create relationships. If you can do those things then they will respond for you,” said Christensen.

Check out the full interview with Mr. Christensen below:

You can view all the other Golden Apple award winners here.