Autumn Meadows Published

North Jefferson Star Teacher Goes Above And Beyond

Three women stand next to each other smiling for the photo. The woman in the middle holds a certificate and a blue, glass Blenko apple paperweight.
(from left to right) Nominator and Academic Coach Sharon Sigley, Kristi Sanders, WVPB Education Director Maggie Holley.
Autumn Meadows/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

“Teachers are inspirational life coaches who guide students,” said Kristi Sanders, the most recent Above and Beyond winner. “From teaching our students to share and make friends to selecting a career path, teachers are role models and inspire students to learn and grow.”

Sanders, a reading and math interventionist at North Jefferson Elementary in Kearneysville, Jefferson County, has earned West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Above and Beyond Award for February, which recognizes excellence and creativity of Mountain State teachers.

Sanders was presented the award by West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Education Director Maggie Holley at an all-school assembly organized just for the occasion. Sanders received a monetary award and a signature Blenko Glass blue apple paperweight. The award is sponsored by the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office, presenter of the SMART529 college savings program in the Mountain State.

Sanders’ passion for teaching is evident in both her nomination and interview. In her 15 years of teaching, she has taught children of many ages and hopes they all become excited and passionate about reading and math. Sanders prepares her students for success by creating a positive culture in the classroom, having high expectations for her students and by modeling the love for learning and service.

When asked how she creates her classroom culture, Sanders recalled one of her favorite quotes, “Do everything with so much love in your heart that you would never do it any other way.” She said she believes building positive relationships with both the students and colleagues is the foundation that can help lead to student success. Her lessons are diverse and relevant to the lives of her students and she provides them with the power of “choice” in the classroom.

Courtesy Kristi Sanders

One of her favorite lessons is a writing project called “Maps of Our Hearts.” Inspired by the picture book, “Maps,” this lesson is modified to all the grade levels, kindergarten to fifth grade. The goal of the lesson is to motivate and engage students to express their ideas through writing and illustration. She reflects on how the lesson allows for conversations between the students that might not typically occur in the classroom and how she learns of the many challenges these students may face at home. The students were provided an outlet while building relationships in the classroom.

“When students enter my classroom, I want them to feel respected and loved so that they can carry these feelings of worth into other aspects of their lives,” Sanders said.

Some of the ways the students show kindness and appreciation is by writing cards to veterans, nursing homes, animal shelters and staff within the school. On student birthdays, all students write a letter to that student and Sanders combines them into a special book for the student to keep. The students connect to the community in these ways and learn social skills such as empathy and that the feeling of helping others can bring happiness for themselves and others.

Sanders shows leadership and service in both her school and county. She serves as the chairperson for the school’s Leadership Committee, leads interventionists in the county during quarterly meetings, is on multiple committees for Jefferson County such as the Universal Screener Committee, WVISS Committee and soon, the Math Intervention Committee.

“I believe that every child deserves a caring and excited adult,” Sanders said. “At the end of the day, it does not matter what role or title we hold as we all are here for our children and students, we should want what is best for them to help then to be successful. In order to ensure the success of our children and students, we must all work together.”

Each month, WVPB has an esteemed panel of judges that select one deserving teacher who goes above and beyond for the students in West Virginia. If you know of a deserving teacher that goes “Above and Beyond,” please click here to nominate them.