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Teacher Feature: Andrea Sanders
B.S. in Elementary Education (2012) and M.S. in Teaching, Learning and Leadership with an option in reading and literacy (2017)
Current School Site:
Disney Elementary School (Tulsa Public Schools)
Fifth grade, self-contained
Number of Years Teaching:
Why did you become an educator?
In 2004, I volunteered with Junior Achievement, and that’s when I heard my calling to be an educator. Being around those students tugged at my heart in a major, positive way. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a teacher in an urban area. One of the schools where I volunteered was Sam Houston Elementary in Tulsa. The school has since closed, but every Thursday I was there, the students were excited to see me. But I think I was more excited than they were. I was in my element.
You were recently recognized as Disney Teacher of the Year for 2016-17. What was your reaction to receiving this honor?
I was excited and shocked! I knew this was something I wanted to achieve, but I wasn’t expecting it so soon. At the time, I was in my second year of teaching at Disney, and I didn’t have as much experience as my fellow nominees. When I heard my principal say my name, I was in shock, but that was soon replaced with a smile that I’m still proudly wearing today. This is an honor I hold near to my heart and one that I’ll always remember.
How did your time at OSU prepare you for your current teaching position?
Every single professor at OSU was passionate about the classes they taught, and they wanted me to be just as passionate, especially about the profession. I learned that if you don’t believe in yourself, who will? My professors all believed in me and even on the days when I wanted to quit, they motivated me to keep going. They saw something in me, and for that I’m extremely grateful. I use that same philosophy with my students now; if we believe it, we can achieve it!
What is something you learned during your time at OSU that you’d like to pass on to other teachers?
Practice makes possible. You can’t go into the classroom for the first time and expect everything to be as lovely or as great as you’ve seen during student teaching or observation visits. I want teachers to embrace this profession with an open mind and the will to accept change. There is always something changing, every single day. Keep an open mind, and don’t be so hard on yourself. Be yourself, but more importantly, be the teacher you are meant to be.
What brings you joy in your work?
Knowing I get to see my students and teach them something new brings me joy. At my school, we have about 60 percent parent involvement, which means the majority of my students have the support they need at home. For those who don’t have that support, I step in and try to help fill that void. Doing so makes teaching all the more worth it, and that brings me joy. Words of encouragement and thanks from my students reassure me that that teaching is my passion and my calling. I do this for them – and for me.