Behind the apple — Julie Sanders, Spann Elementary School
Soft spoken and gentle yet with a bubbly personality, first grade teacher Julie Smith, 41, of Summerville is the epitome of the family atmosphere she encourages in her classroom.
A graduate of Walterboro High School, Sanders earned a BS in Elementary Education from the College of Charleston and then a Master’s in Reading from The Citadel.
Her first teaching experience was at her own alma mater - Forest Hills Elementary School in Walterboro - where she taught for four years, alongside teachers who had been there when she was a student.
Then, in 1998, she came to Spann and has been there ever since.
“Charlie Stoudenmire hired me,” she smiles.
“It [teaching] is something that I feel I was always meant to do,” she reflects. “As a child I would spend endless hours playing school with my sister. Also, my mom was just reminding me the other day that no matter how sick I was when I was little, I would beg and cry to go to school because I didn’t want to miss out on learning. No one in my family was ever a teacher but my parents had always instilled in me the importance of an education and how that was something no one could take away from you. I strive to instill that love of learning into my students daily. These elementary years are the foundation of years to come and I want every child to be equipped with the skills they need to become lifelong learners.”
In addition to teaching first grade, she is chair of the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), has served as grade chair and was the 2007 Spann Teacher of the Year and district honor teacher. She also serves and has served on myriad district committees including the math committee where she worked at taking the Common Core Standards and creating a pacing guide for teachers to use.
Also she is a member of Alpha Tau Chapter of Alpha Delta Kappa Honorary Teacher Sorority. “I have had the privilege to be a part of this wonderful group of educators and be a part of many community outreach projects.”
In addition, Sanders is a member of the Spann Relay for Life Team and has assisted in various fund raisers.
She says she hasn’t really experienced a “worst experience” but that “whenever anything goes wrong or something bad happens, I always look to myself…I ask myself ‘what didn’t I do’ but I have an every day is a new day attitude.”
Sanders admits she is a perfectionist. “We [teachers] can be our own worst enemies…we want to do everything we can to help a child.”
Her best experience, without a doubt, she says, is her looping years.
She moved with her first grade class to second grade and taught second grade for two years. She came back to first grade last year.
“I looped with my class a couple of years ago. I really enjoyed it, it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my teaching career.”
Sanders was able to watch her students grow, have long-lasting (to this day) bonds with their families and monitor the progression of her class.
“It is,” she says, “very eye opening for teachers to learn about what others are doing. Teaching second grade has enabled her to better prepare her students for what they can expect.
“Having parents who had faith in me to ensure their children to me for another year….”
When she isn’t teaching, she spends her time with her husband Ricky who runs the family business - Culligan Water - in North Charleston. They have a son, Colin, who is 11 and in his last year at Spann before heading off to middle school.
“That will be bittersweet for both of us,” she smiles.
The Sanders family is very sports oriented, she laughs. “We go to every Citadel home football game and to USC Gamecocks games once or twice a year.”
The family loves the beach too. Colin plays basketball and baseball so they also go to all his games.
Back in high school, sanders says she was into journalism and was editor of the yearbook. In college, she tutored in writing lab. Whenever she has time, she reads and she likes to cook, again when time permits.
“I love interior decorating and event planning.” Sanders will help friends and relatives plan events. She is active in the Ashley Ridge Church.
She also enjoys scrapbooking but hasn’t had a chance to do that for a long time, she says.
Her professional goal is to create an atmosphere were children feel safe to learn and to build a community of learners.
“We have a family atmosphere in here [classroom], we encourage each other and respect each other.”
Sanders has just finished a class in Gifted and Talented and is interested in working toward teaching a GATE class.
She has no administrative aspirations. “My true place is in the classroom with kids.”
She does express interest in perhaps being involved in more intensive intervention, using her expertise in reading to do more small group literacy instruction.
As far as life goes, it can sometimes be a struggle between work and family. “I always put family first…my goal? To maintain balance.”