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English & Peer Resource teacher chose love and teaching over career as photojournalist
Janet Sanders is leaving her mark as an English instructor and Peer Resource advisor at Sierra High School. Though she’s been in education for 30 years, Sanders says she feels like a new teacher because of all the changes in the last year.

Sierra High instructor Janet Sanders is a helpful and dependable teacher. For a new student in a new country, it can be hard to adjust to a new atmosphere. Mrs. Sanders is an English teacher, who helps in other English classes and oversees the school’s Peer Resource program. In that way, Mrs. Sanders is one of the most dependable teachers. Her class is enjoyable because she shares stories about herself and talks about her family and children. She even told us about when and how she met her late husband. Sharing stories about your personal life isn’t always easy, but by sharing those stories with her students, Mrs. Sanders makes them feel comfortable and earns their trust. I had a chance to sit down with Mrs. Sanders, my teacher of three years, to discuss her role in the classroom and at home.

Q: How much time and effort does it take to become a teacher?

A: I think originally it just takes four years of college, plus one of teacher training to get your certificate, but there is a lot of different ways to short cut it. Some people take a little bit longer but on average it is five years.

Q: What kind of difficulties have you had to face in your life as a teacher?

A: I think one of biggest difficulties is that kids don’t come to school prepared to learn and it’s not their fault that they are not prepared to learn. It’s just sometimes home life is hard for them, and so I think that’s the biggest challenge I face. Some of my students come to school hungry. Some of them come to school tired. Some of them come to school anxious about things happening at home. I think that’s the hardest part of my job.

Q: Why did you choose to become an English teacher?

A: Actually, I became an English teacher by accident. I never wanted to be a teacher ever! Ever! Ever! I wanted to be a photojournalist and pretty much my whole college career was about photography and writing and having fun. My fiancé was not the kind of person who wanted travel and do what I want to do, and I had to choose the career or my relationship with him. So, I chose to stay here in California, and I decided to substitute teach for a while until I figured out what I wanted to do. I fell in love with it.

Q: Do you get annoyed by your students sometimes?

A: Sometimes, they annoy me, but usually it’s because I am cranky that day because I did not get enough sleep, or something happened at my house. I do get irritated when students make lame excuses instead of saying, “You know Mrs. Sanders, I screwed up. I didn’t do it.” I would rather have them be honest with me.

Q: Does school dominate the time on your weekend?

A: You know what, I’m better at managing my time now than ever was before. When I was a new a teacher, I would literally spend 12 hours a day at school and spend (another) 10 hours on the weekend working on things. But now, I’ve been teaching 30 years. I probably spend three or four hours on the weekend. I usually try not to touch anything until Sunday afternoon. I try to have fun Friday, Saturday and half of Sunday.

Q: Has teaching affected your personal life?

A: Yeah, I think it has but in a good way. I don’t think (it has) really had a negative impact. I think being a teacher has made me a better mother, and when my husband was alive, I felt it made me a better wife because I was more patient with them. I think my students made me a better person, so that makes my life better.

Q: Are you able to give your family time in the digital learning model?

A: On my gosh! When it first all went down last March, I pretty much ignored my family for two weeks while I figured out how to do everything, distance learning-wise. Now I got it down where I don’t ignore my family, but for the first two-three weeks, I was a red-hot mess.

Q: What type of advice would you give someone about being a teacher?

A: I would say, you have to love what you are doing. If you have a passion for it then go for it, but if you don’t love it, you don’t belong in this profession.

Q: How do you stay organized with many students?

A: Gosh! I think I have system down for me but then it doesn’t work for the kids, so I’m constantly tweaking things a little bit to try to make it easy for them to see organization. For me, as the teacher, I would say it’s not my strength and I’m still working on finding ways to make things easy for kids in terms of how to find something, where to turn it in … the whole process for everything we do in class.

Q: Were your parents supportive of your career choice?

A: Oh yeah, they were way happier that I was not travelling. They did not want me to do it (travelling). So yeah, they were supportive and in fact, in my family out of the six brothers and sisters, three of the girls are teachers.

Q: Do you think students feel comfortable talking with you?

A: I think some of them do. I think I tried to be approachable, but I think some kids are super shy and they don’t want to talk to me in class but will talk to me through e-mail. I think some students know when I am mad at them. They avoid me, but that is OK. I think most kids can approach me.

Q: How long have you been teaching? And do you feel like continuing in this career?

A: This is my 30th year of teaching and I feel like a new teacher all over again because of the all of the changes. I’m not done yet. I still want to keep going. I think I would like to teach at least five more years.

Q: How long did it take you to become a teacher?

A: Five total years of education and then I went back and worked on my masters and I’m constantly going to workshops and reading books. So, I guess you can say, it’s just five years of preparation, but I’m constantly learning right now about everything to deal with my job.

Q: How has your experience as a teacher been so far?

A: It is great. It is probably the best thing in my life other than my kids, my family and my friends. I love my job! It is amazing.