Sandie Wells doesn’t waste a second when talking about her greatest moments teaching over the past five decades.
Yes, that’s right, Wells taught for 50 years in the South Pasadena Unified School District, and there’s little question what brought her back to the classroom to do it all over again each fall.
“I loved all the students,” said Wells, looking back on her illustrious career. “Working with the hard to reach students and bringing them around always made me happy. I seemed to attract them.”
A half-century of teaching is long enough for Wells, who retired from the local school district last week along with Sharon Alegria, Ellen Baskin, and Mike Gray. She was honored recently by her peers during an employee recognition event at the South Pasadena Unified School District as the school year came to a close.
To raise the interest level of students, Wells went to great lengths, some years even bringing wildlife on campus to help get her message across. “Developing units that excited the students and got them involved such as my wolf unit where I brought three to four wolves for the wolf assembly to make 7th graders aware of the fact that there were people who wanted them removed from the endangered species list and that they could do something about it,” Wells explained. “For example, they researched and wrote letters to government officials to have them protected in California, and along with many others were successful.”
Students today are more aware of life and discuss adult topics openly, noted Wells when asked what has changed most about the profession over the years. “Our subject matter is not as conservative as it once was, making school more interesting and meaningful in real life,” she noted. “However, there are more after school activities that detract from the importance of school which can make motivating the students more challenging.”
Wells never intended on being a teacher, but after receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in in English, she thought ‘I would give it a try and I liked it,” she said. Wells taught fifth grade for about 18 years, then moved to the South Pasadena Middle school when it was a junior high, teaching the last 9th grade on campus. She was an 8th grade teacher before moving to the 7th grade.
“I enjoyed the challenge of teaching different types of students in changing times,” explained Wells. “I loved the interaction with this age group and seeing life through their eyes. I loved working with younger teachers and blending our talents to create new learning experiences for the students.
For teachers just starting out in the profession, Wells recommends teaching “what you love and have fun with it,” she said. “Strive to have each student reach their personal best, which will be different for everyone.”
As she settles into retirement, Wells is unsure what’s next for her, “except working more with nature and animals and teaching the world about saving the wolves,” she said. “I look forward to doing what I want to do when I want to do it and the time to explore new avenues.”
Wells also wants to thank all the people she has met of all ages along the way, “for teaching me new things every day and making life exciting. Now is just the beginning of new adventures for which all of my past interactions have prepared me.”
And, of course, she wants to thank the South Pasadena Unified School District “for being a wonderful place to work,” she said.
Employee Recognition Celebration
The District Teacher of the Year is Sandra Matson-Fennell from South Pasadena High
School Site Teachers of the Year
Arroyo Vista Elementary School: Laura Ishibashi, kindergarten
Marengo Elementary School: Yvonne Carlson, third grade
Monterey Hills Elementary School: Kristy King, fifth grade
South Pasadena Middle School: Julie Ryu, English and English Language Development
South Pasadena High School: Sandra Matson-Fennell, graphic design, career technical education.
Oneonta Teachers of the Year
Laurie Thackery: Monterey Hills Elementary School
Julie Ryu: South Pasadena Middle School, English
Recognized for 5 years of employment: Monique Diaz, Chris Dow, Krista Gale, Monique Garcia, Paola Hidalgo, Jennifer Hong, Carly Humphrey, Stephanie Ibarra, Heather Jara, Jillian Jones, Julie Kennedy, Eric Ketchum, Dave Lubs, Rebecca Luna-Carrillo, Liane Marciel, Tim Mawhinney, Dawn Mays, Shiuli Mukhopadhyay, Reina Rogers, Paola Reynoso-Williams, Jesse Rodriguez, Diana Shen, Dana Smith, Amanda Tarca, Evan Wong and Geoff Yantz.
Recognized for 10 years of employment: Rousanna Berberian, Christopher Borkgren, Gina Tolleson, Marcile Montoya, Nicolas Hua and Amanda Coronel.
15 years of employment – Brenda Baca, Megerdich Baghram-Gregor, Patrick Barr, Maygen Frazier, Aimee Hultman, Tracy Ishimaru, Stephanie Jenkins, Landis Lin, Eva Miranda, Eva Muniz, Marina Thompson-Grace, Priya Trachtenberg, Suzie Wong and Susan Yang
Recognized for 20 years of employment: Andrew Adanto, Ron Aschieris, Katherine Barela, Angelique Burzynski, Sandy Bishop, Marylin Garcia, Elba Hernandez, Emily Hoffman, Paul Hugasian, Brian Jehue, Tammy Lai, Dean McCoy, Ron Millar Alma Miranda, Pedro Pinedo, Jill Reddy, Laurie Thackery and Josh Whitney.
Recognized for 25 years of employment: Paul Giovanini and James Jontz.
Recognized for 30 years of employment: Sharon Alegria, Jose Alvarado and Casey Shotwell.
Recognized for 50 years of employment: Sandie Wells
Retirees: Sharon Alegria, Ellen Baskin, Sandie Wells and Mike Gray.