As a teacher, Christensen won over students with his soft-spoken clarity and captivating use of stories to drill home key points. Unlike bombastic professors who pace the floor and radiate fiery charisma, Christensen spoke in a gentle, sometimes halting tone.
One of his students, Michael Horn, compared his communication style to Abraham Lincoln. The 16th president didn’t command a room by talking over everyone in a loud voice.
In his first class with Christensen in 2005, Horn thought, “This is the professor everyone raves about?”
“But as he got going, he’d settle into a rhythm and cadence and people would be mesmerized,” Horn recalled. “And like Lincoln, he was a master storyteller.”
Horn wound up co-authoring a book with Christensen, “Disrupting Class,” about K-12 public education. When Horn got married in 2010, he integrated what he learned from Christensen into his wedding vows.
“I talked about being super-intentional and having a deliberate plan for how we’d be as a couple, rather than just saying yes to instant gratification that takes you away from a deliberate strategy,” Horn said. “We all make choices. If you’re not deliberate in those choices, it can result in unintentional resource allocation where you prioritize less important things.”