By Ray Hamill — The H-DN administrators are clearly doing something right, and they’re getting recognized for it.
Last month, Fortuna High Assistant Principal Kristie Christiansen was named one of two 2023 recipients of the annual North Coast Section Phil Hempler Distinguished Service award.
She becomes the fifth H-DN recipient of the award and the second consecutive, following in the footsteps of H-DN Commissioner Jack Lakin, who received the honor last year.
“It’s pretty humbling for me because some of my greatest mentors received that award,” Christiansen said, referring to Lakin and 2006 winner Jan Smith-Billing. “I kind of walked on the shoulders of my mentors. I kind of followed their path.”
Smith-Billing was a mentor for Christiansen during a two-year spell as a young coach at Casa Grande and the two have remained close ever since, while Lakin gave her a first coaching job in Humboldt County at Eureka High.
Christiansen, however, has long since been blazing her own trail.
In addition to guiding the Ferndale girls basketball team to three straight NCS titles between 2012 and 2014, Christiansen also has coached volleyball and softball and has enjoyed coaching stints at Casa Grande, Ferndale and Eureka, while also serving as the Athletic Director for the Loggers.
It was during her five years as AD at Eureka that Christiansen had perhaps her biggest influence league wide, establishing the H-DN Student Advisory Council, which gives student athletes from every league school a voice in matters than impact local sports and provides leadership opportunities for its members.
She also helped establish the InSideOut coaching program at Eureka, as well beginning the very popular Logger ESPYs, an annual awards ceremony that honors high school seniors.
Christiansen moved to Fortuna High in 2021 to become the Assistant Principal and Dean of Students and recently brought the Husky ESPYs to the Friendly City to an enthusiastic reception.
She also has served as the Vice President of the H-DN and on the NCS Executive and Sportsmanship committees.
“I lead with a deep passion and commitment to build positive relationships that foster integrity, discipline and love for self and others,” she said. “It is my philosophy that in education, relationships are at the heart of everything we do.”
The Hempler award is not the first time Christiansen has been recognized for her contributions to local education and sports.
She was named Educator of the Year by the California League of High Schools in 2011 and received the Humboldt County Office of Education Teacher of Excellence Award.
She also received the Ruby Award from the Soroptimists as an advocate for young women in the community.
In addition to Christiansen, the H-DN’s Carl Del Grande received the Hempler award in 1992, Lakin’s father Charles Lakin won it in 2002, and Richard Graey in 2013.
Phil Hempler served NCS sports for 40 years as a coach, official, athletic director and league commissioner, and was NCS Commissioner of Athletics from 1962 to 1972.