News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Michele Hammer wraps up teaching career in Sisters

When Michele Hammer started working for the Sisters School District in 2005, she couldn’t really picture the varied positions she would hold over the next 16 years. Now, after officially retiring in June, she looks back with a feeling of satisfaction as an educator who served where needed, and as an advocate for students.

Hammer came to Sisters well equipped to handle the variety of roles she ultimately took on. After spending her youth in San Francisco, she attended the University of Puget Sound, where she earned a degree in American Studies/secondary education and followed up with law school in San Diego. The antitrust work Hammer did as an attorney did not hold her passion, so she turned to the love she held for “working with kids and being outside,” leading her to enter a master’s program at the University of Oregon in therapeutic recreation.

Though family obligations kept her from completing that degree, she had enough training and experience to be hired as a recreational therapist operating an animal therapy program and day camps in the Lake Oswego area, where she stayed for 10 years. Hammer spent another 10 years at a day-treatment facility, where she got her first experience in a classroom.

“I found that I really enjoyed working with kids in an educational environment,” she said, “so I went back to school once again, attending Concordia University during the evenings, and earned my master’s degree in teaching in order to have the option of moving into the public school system.”

Hammer had gotten a taste of Central Oregon earlier in her life after spending eight summers from 1974 to 1982 working at Camp Tamarack west of Sisters, and she wanted to reside in the area. She moved to Bend in 1998 and actually commuted to Portland for over five years.

“I would leave Bend at the crack of dawn on Monday mornings and return Friday evenings, while also working to complete my master’s in teaching,” she said.

An end to the crazy commuting schedule came in 2005 when Hammer, thanks to all of her experience and education, got hired in Sisters to develop the alternative education program for Sisters School District.

In the ensuing years, Hammer found herself in a variety of roles and also continued her own education.

“My jobs for the Sisters School District have been many and varied,” she said.

In 10 years with the high school, Hammer served as the alternative education director and teacher, taught special education, worked as the leadership teacher, and held the titles of activities director and dean of students.

“And, in the midst of all that, I also completed my administrative license,” she said.

Hammer moved to Sisters Middle School in 2015 where she taught U.S. History and held the position of dean of students. In 2017, she served as temporary principal for more than half the year when the principal had to step down. Hammer served outside the regular school day as well.

“I had the privilege of helping to coach the high school swim team with Isolde Hedemark and working with Bill Rexford to develop a girls lacrosse program in Sisters, which led to coaching the high school program for seven years,” she said. “Those were activities I loved doing, along with putting on the Mr. SHS Pageants, helping students organize fundraisers, and other activities. I hold fond memories for all those things.”

As someone who cared deeply about her fellow staff members and worked to advocate for them, Hammer served as the president of the teacher’s union for the past three years.

Hammer spent much of her long career working with young people who faced particular hardships or challenges.

“I think the most memorable and satisfying moments are those where I am still connected to the students, sharing in the milestones of their lives, marriages, the births of their children, seeing them become amazing adults,” she said. “I loved working with students who had made poor choices and we would work together to come up with alternatives. It meant a lot when I have had past students tell me ‘You were tough but you were always fair.’

“Having students tell me I had an impact means the world to me,” she said.

Tim Roth, who worked alongside Hammer at Sisters Middle School and is about to start his first year as principal, said, “Michele also finds a way to create great experiences for kids and is a highly skilled and effective teacher.”

Roth also appreciated Hammer’s straightforward manner on things that mattered. “She will tell you the truth with no sugarcoating it, which I appreciated since she has such a wealth of experience and is a voice I needed to listen to hear.”

Completing a long career that included over 30 years working with youth, Hammer is glad she wound up her professional life in Sisters.

“I can honestly say it’s been such a privilege to work in the district,” she said. “The staff I have had the honor to work with these years has been extraordinary. I have learned so much from them and the collaborative environment I got to be a part of. Sisters is an amazing place where the community supports its schools. If we needed something the community made it happen. Working with great administrators like Marshall Jackson, who taught me so much about leadership of a team, was just an honor.”

As to what her future plans include, Hammer said, “That’s a tough one. I know for certain that I will continue with my part-time job at Fika Sisters Coffeehouse because I love the environment there, and I love working with the public and connecting with the community there.

“I plan to spend a lot more time with my family and grandkids and am hoping to become more involved in dog rescue, which has been a passion of mine. I would love to become more involved in the community as well.”

With her trailer loaded up and ready, Hammer has plans for some travel in Oregon this summer, and she is looking forward to what it will be like to be free in the fall.

“I am sure that when summer ends and kids are heading back to school it will hit me that I am actually retired,” she said.


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