Sanders stepping down after 40 years with NISD

Sanders stepping down after 40 years with NISD
Posted on 05/30/2019
Sanders stepping down after 40 years with NISD

Nearly from the start, Betty Sanders heard she would be a teacher. And that included no better source than her own first-grade instructor, Mrs. Lockett.

Turns out Mrs. Lockett and everyone else were right. Sanders did become a teacher – after returning to college as an adult – and now she’s retiring after 40 years in public education, all with Nacogdoches ISD.

Sanders career is also ending pretty close to where it began. She attended Ms. Lockett’s first-grade class at W. E. Jones Elementary, the forerunner of Brooks-Quinn-Jones Elementary where Sanders is retiring as librarian.

During one of her final days at BQJ, Sanders is in the library, finishing up the day while awaiting a reception in her honor to get underway.

Teachers and co-workers periodically poke their heads, wishing Sanders the best. “I don’t know what I’m going to do next year,” one teacher told Sanders. Another barely got out a few words out before the tears started.

“That’s my 6 o’clock buddy,” said Sanders, mentioning they both arrive while it’s still dark outside to get things in order before students start coming in the door.

“There’s really no way to overstate how much we will miss her,” said Brooks-Quinn-Jones Principal Tom Miller. “She’s wonderful with the children and staff, and she carries with her so much institutional knowledge. All of that will be difficult to replace.”

The Nacogdoches native has spent her entire life here, except for a few years working at a couple large Houston employers – Gulf Oil and Texas Commercial Bank. Sanders is one of four NISD employees retiring with at least 40 years of experience in education.

Teddy Farley, also a Nacogdoches High School graduate, is stepping down from Nettie Marshall Academy of Dual Language. She’s spent 40 years in education, 17 of it here in Nacogdoches.

Bobby Reyes taught and coached 21 years in the district and 46 years overall, including the last seven as head football coach at NHS and the last two as athletic director.

Diane Morton is retiring after 42 years as a speech/pathologist, including the last 12 with NISD.

“I never thought being with little people would be as fun as it is,” Sanders said last week while she waited for a reception at Brooks-Quinn-Jones to get underway. “I had no idea… everyone said I’d be a great teacher, but I didn’t think it was a calling.”

Early on, Sanders moved to Houston – the only time she’s lived away from Nacogdoches – and worked a few years in the business world before returning home and taking a job in the NISD administration building.

Sanders’ first role with the district was as a secretary for Evelyn Jackson. Baker Denham then recruited her to Thomas J. Rusk as a classroom aide working with students, which led to Sanders being named an instructional aide at then-newly opened Mike Moses Middle School.

As an aide, Sanders would record herself reading from books that students could use as a prompt. Using her own voice, Sanders would add inflection and enthusiasm and excitement… whatever the story called for. “The students want that sort of thing.”

After eight years with NISD, Sanders gave in and decided to go to college, taking advantage of a program called “Grow Your Own Teacher.” Nacogdoches ISD and Stephen F. Austin State University helped Sanders, and she obtained an elementary education degree.

“It was just a wonderful program,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ degree from SFA led to Emeline Carpenter Elementary, where she started as a technology teacher. It also reunited her with Jackson. Sanders soon acquired a master’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in school library and information technology.

Sanders took over as librarian at Carpenter then moved to Brooks-Quinn-Jones where she’s served as librarian until announcing her retirement.

During a 40-year career in public education, Sanders has seen trends and theories come and go. But the biggest change has been the dramatic increase of and reliance upon standardized testing.

“It’s changed drastically,” she said. “There’s a tremendous amount of testing for the children.”

But at least one thing remains unchanged, she says: The indispensable significance of reading. Sanders said she was read to by her parents, including her father, who would share stories from the newspaper. In school, Sanders’ said Mrs. Lockett, the first-grade teacher, saw that her new student could already read.

“She made me a group leader,” Sanders said.

Sanders would also stop by Lockett’s home and help clean her house. When Lockett tried to pay her, Sanders said she couldn’t take money – her mother had told her that. Instead, could she have a book? “I was paid with a book!”

Books played such an integral role in Sanders childhood that her mother wouldn’t let her read until completing math homework. “I hated math,” Sanders said, “and my mother hid my book until I finished.”

Maybe there are more books in Sanders’ future. She wants to write… “about the experiences children have going through school.”

“It’s been a great ride,” Sanders said moments before stepping over to the cafeteria to enjoy cake and a celebration with her co-workers. “That’s what I tell the young teachers.”

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