By CORINA VANEK Sun Staff Reporter , Arizona Daily Sun – November 28, 2015
Sarah Hendricks decided to turn to teaching after years of working in customer service, when she wanted to set a better example for her own children.
“I worked at Bashas’ for 12 years and became a teacher later in life,” Hendricks said. “I became a single mom during that time and I wanted to step up and show my kids that I could better myself.”
Hendricks, a kindergarten teacher at Thomas Elementary School, was one of three Flagstaff nominees for the Rodel Expemplary Teacher honor, which honors teachers in high need schools. Teachers are nominated by their principals and are interviewed and chosen by the Rodel Foundation.
“I was overwhelmed when I found out about it,” Hendricks said. “I welled up in tears. It’s an amazing recognition and I feel really good about it.”
Hendricks has been teaching for 14 years total, including two years as a bilingual resource teacher and five years teaching at Leupp Public School before coming to teach at Thomas. She studied physical education in college but has always taught at the kindergarten level.
Hendricks said some students come into her class with no exposure to education, while some are already reading, so she works to help all students improve.
“You can’t assume that any of your kids knows everything,” Hendricks said. “Even if a student is a reader, they might be missing some of the baby steps, so you have to build that and make those connections.”
She spends time over the summer and during breaks looking at teaching blogs and new techniques — her class looks completely different than it did when she first started teaching. She said in recent years, there has been a shift toward teacher collaboration, and the support with other teachers has helped her grow.
‘When I first started teaching in 2001 there were standards, but I don’t think I had a lot of support,” she said. “Professional development was unheard of. Now we work a lot with collaboration and discussion — collaboration has been a big improvement.”
Hendricks said she has siblings of earlier students come through her class, and her first classes of kindergartners are in college now.
“I see what they are up to on social media sometimes,” she said. “Sometimes I will post a picture of something they did in kindergarten, so we keep in touch that way.”
Hendricks said she likes to incorporate physical activity into classroom activities, like letters and numbers associated with a hand motion, or jumping to the beat of counting to 20, to help students see that being active can be included in the classroom.
She keeps a daily record of her students’ performance to track progress throughout the year, and she would advise younger teachers to grow from peer criticism.
“Learn from your evaluations,” she said. “Don’t take them personally. I know I have had some bad evaluations. It’s a chance for you to become better.”
The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 556-2249.