BEHIND THE APPLE: Sandy Guilmette, Knightsville Elementary
Sandy Guilmette, 62, of North Charleston, has been guiding little ones for 36 years, 29 of those at Knightsville.
Growing up in Minnesota, Guilmette graduated from South Dakota State with a degree in Early Childhood Education and Family Relations. Coming to the Lowcountry with a military husband, she began her teaching career at Addlestone Hebrew Academy in Charleston where she taught for four years.
Earning her Master’s from the College of Charleston in Early Childhood Education, she taught at Oakbrook Child Development Center in Summerville for another three years. Because both were accredited preschools, her years of teaching counted when she came to Dorchester District Two 29 years ago where she’s taught K-4, first grade and kindergarten.
Firmly settled in kindergarten now, she has earned school Teacher of the Year in 1989, DD2 Reading Teacher of the Year in 2003 and runner up for South Carolina PTA Teacher of the Year in 2009.
She has been department head on a rotating basis seven years worth and served as a new teacher mentor five times.
Her favorite teaching level, however, was “what they called looping, where you start with the children when they are four years old (Pre-K) and continue through kindergarten.” This is no longer done in DD2.
She serves on the RTI learning interventions committee; heads up the K-2 drama club and prior to that, for the past 20 years, her class has put on two stage performances for the school.
She serves on the vertical team for cross grade planning and her student teacher last year is now a first grade teacher with DD2.
“I have been lucky to have great parent volunteers and parent participation,” she says. “This year I have seven moms, each with different responsibilities, a room dad and eight regular volunteers to do things from home.”
She created the Citizen of the Week program at Knightsville, which honors one child from every classroom, weekly.
“We had Terrific Kids – nine times a year – and Jaguar of the Day – three times a year – but so many kids never got acknowledged, I wanted something where every child could be acknowledged at least once during the school year.”
In her class, her children work on life skills and on Fridays the Citizen of the Week is chosen. In some classes, she says, the teacher chooses and in some the students choose.
Her best experience teaching is now, when she is getting the children of the children she once taught. “It is so special to have been here long enough to get my students’ children.”
One of her worst experiences, she recalls, was Hurricane Hugo.
“I went to every student’s home to make sure they were okay,” she says. “I had one child whose mom had died in a car crash. Another where the grandmother was caring for two children with no food…I went and got them food. Another had no diapers….”
“My mom and dad are like that…they would do that, even though they are retired, they spend their week helping others.”
When she is not teaching, Guilmette is almost as busy with her three active grandsons – Samuel, 12, Daniel, 9 and Nathaniel, 3.
The mother of two daughters – Fara, a nurse at SMC and Lindy a physical therapist on Hilton Head – Guilmette cares for her grandsons at least three nights a week when their mom is working. She is married to Frank who manages the meat department for Publix.
She loves to read, take walks, play piano, is a member of a Bible study group and she loves dogs.
Family, though, is her greatest love. That and going home to Minnesota.
“I grew up on a farm and I miss the fresh, clean air. When I get off the plane it feels very different in the way I breathe.”
In fact, her entire family feels that Minnesota is home. Her daughters and grandsons talk about going all year. “They love Minnesota, swimming and fishing,” she says.
She enjoys sports and spends a lot of time going to her grandsons’ games.
She taught herself to crochet, cross-stitch and macramé, and she loves cooking.
“I just know that when I do retire, I still want life to be full,” she says. She plans on reaching out to organizations that need volunteers, once she retires, including the many groups her church – Cathedral of Praise – sponsors.
“I was going to retire last year,” she laughs, “but my principal Dr. Baird, said ‘no, you’re not ready yet’ so I stayed.
“I’ve tried to learn to smell the roses and take things as they come and just enjoy….”