Once upon a time on a cold April morning with snow still on the ground, in a mixed up family with a mom, a dad and eight kids, still shocked by the fact that the “indigestion” turned out to be a pregnancy, this unlikely group of ten had grown by one. Clare Dianne Perttunen was born in Marquette, Michigan to Glyde Helen and Leonard Hunus Perttunen. Ice bergs still bounced along the rocky coast line of Lake Superior and crocuses were poking their brightly colored blooms up through the snow at the base of the pines. Helen and Len brought their surprise child home to their large blended family with mixed reviews.
And so began my childhood growing up with much older siblings and much older parents. My mom and dad, looking forward to the freedom that comes with an empty nest, had to make some changes to their plans of travel and adventure. To accommodate, we began to move: a lot. I was in 13 schools by the time I entered junior high school and we had traveled to every contiguous state and Europe. We returned to our home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan allowing me to complete secondary school in one place. Needless to say, my friendships were fleeting and I was always the new kid. But I learned a great deal about myself and others. I loved the outdoors and I loved learning. Perhaps because I spent a great deal of time reading and learning from my mom and dad as we moved from one place to another, stopping frequently along the way.
This is a reoccurring pattern in my life: stopping along the way. My personal and educational journeys have been irregular, unconventional, and difficult. I lacked direction as a student (as a person really) and I wandered: looking for a good fit. I found school to be fun, but with little relevance to my life. I knew I wanted to be a National Park ranger as it aligned with my love of nature and the outdoors, but the path seemed unclear and poorly planned. I was a student at Northern Michigan University for awhile taking classes like “Bird Migrations” (actually following cranes as they migrated to Padre Island, Texas) and “Wolf Reintroduction” (counting dead deer in the spring on Isle Royale). I wanted all my classes to be this engaging, this interesting. With many stops along the way, I began a family, and ended up attending Purdue University pursuing a degree in biology. I had never considered teaching. A professor convinced me to become a teaching assistant for him in an introductory biology (ecology and genetics) course. I LOVED IT!! I added a teaching certification to my biology degree and began teaching biology and zoology at Jefferson High School when I graduated in 1990.
My husband Greg and I have 4 children in our mixed up family (another theme): Derrick (25), Ali (24), Ethan (9) Eliza (7), Riley (8), Ruger (5) and Sydney (5). (Those last 3 are dogs). We live in log cabin in the woods on the Wildcat Creek and we spend every free moment on water. We camp and fish, we kayak and fish, we boat along the scenic Wabash and fish, we drift boat and fish along the rivers of the North. Did I say we fish? I love all manner of living things and the environment, which has provided me with great joy and it means a great deal to me. I would rather be outdoors, in any weather, than anywhere else. This planet is a wondrous treasure and I cannot get enough.
I have no regrets in life even though life has taught me some very difficult lessons. I needed every experience to develop into the person I am today and I will need every experience that follows to be the person I want to become. I do not look back. I look forward with gratitude for challenges. Teaching and learning are my life’s blood and I find reward and joy in each day. Obviously, the scales are tipped on certain days and I stumble and get discouraged, like everyone else. That is why I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of Oakland High School. It has been my dream to co-construct a school from inception and to work with such dedicated, talented teachers and community members. I am fortunate to be employed by a school corporation that recognizes that we must have multiple options for our students and then chooses to act accordingly. I am confident that when educators and students work together, as partners, exceptional outcomes will result. I can’t wait.
"The question is not, Is it possible to educate all children well? but rather, Do we want to do it badly enough?"