State of Our Schools – Veteran teacher says never stop learning

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

SALTILLO – Sandra Magers, who has been teaching for nearly three decades, knows there’s more than one way to spell a word.
In karate spelling, the kids kick and punch up and across their bodies based on the shape of the letters in a word. With rainbow writing, they copy their spelling words, layering on different colors with each pass.
Just after spring break, Magers had her Saltillo Primary School first-graders try their hand at patty cake spelling. They clapped their hands on consonants and clapped across on the vowels.
“I try to keep it fun,” Magers said. There’s purpose behind the fun for the National Board Certified teacher. Incorporating singing, dancing, arts and physical movement into the lesson pays dividends. “It helps children retain what they’re learning.”
Her students aren’t the only ones who are learning.
“Teaching is something where you have to continually educate yourself,” Magers said.
She almost always has a book study or work study going in addition to prepping for classes. During the summer, she’s jumping into workshops to find new ways of teaching and more hands-on activities.
“My job is not 8 a.m. to 3 p.m,” Magers said.
Education has evolved so much from her early days of teaching. Instead of rows of desks, students work in small groups, often rotating through centers. Magers pulls in resources from a number of sources, not just a single textbook. She loves the trend of incorporating more nonfiction into the reading curriculum.
“It’s not by the book anymore,” Magers said.
Sometimes new things mean letting go of activities you really like, she said.
“You can’t continue to do everything you’ve done in the past and do new things,” Magers said. “You have to let things go.”
With all of the changes, there’s been one constant.
“I love it when a child learns to read,” Magers said.
“Most of them are eager to learn but I get a few who are scared they can’t learn to read,” Magers said.
At times, Magers has put herself on the line to break through those fears. She remembers one little boy who loved horses.
“I told him if he let me teach him to read, I’d let him teach me to ride a horse,” Magers said.
Both kept their promises. Magers ended up riding with a mutual friend, and she tells her young student about what happened during her lessons.
“I’d keep trying even though I fell off,” she said, and her young pupil – who is now in high school – kept at reading. At the end of the year, he told her “Ms. Magers, I’m going to miss you so much.”

michaela.morris@journalinc.com