What do you get when you combine the skills and interests of a teacher, a chef, a restaurateur and a gardener with someone who loves children and sees the light in each and every one? To the benefit of the students at San Jose Episcopal Day School, you have someone who uses their own unique talents and passions to draw out the best in every child.
Susannah Sands is the school’s Support Center Coordinator and works with students on all levels of the learning spectrum. She is an integral part of the school’s ability to provide differentiated instruction and meet the needs of all students.
She provides an extra boost and reinforcement for students who need help, whether it’s on an on-going basis or just with a particular concept they can’t grasp in class. “I love what I do. I was always drawn to children that needed help,” explains Susannah. “I think part of it is because there were subjects I struggled with in school and I wish someone would have taken the time to explain it to me in a different way.”
She also works with students who have been identified as talented or gifted, and provides them with that extra challenge so they can reach their highest potential. She helps them dive deep into a concept to provide a greater depth of learning. Her time with these students is completely student-led, meaning that the students themselves determine what subject and project they want to take on as a collaborative group. “I pick them up from class and, before I can even get in the door behind them, they have already started their work,” she explains. “I love their independence and passion.”
Although she has a degree in education, she spent a number of years following her true passion—cooking. She spent years as a caterer and in the early 2000’s, she owned and ran Susannah’s, a restaurant in Avondale, before returning to the classroom and relishing those “I get it!” moments she shares with her students. It is her own unique ability to see the best in each child— by nurturing their talents and strengths—that allows her to make each child feel special and valued.
Her personal interests are very much in line with the investment she makes in her students. She and her husband, Keith, purchased a run-down, 120-year-old home in Springfield with the intent to renovate the home and sell it. But after uncovering the beauty of this run down home and restoring it to its former glory, they decided to make it their own. She has an amazing ability to see something wonderful when it is not clearly apparent.
She is also an avid gardener, and spends hours in her yard. “Susannah tends to each child like flowers in her garden. Some might need a little fertilizer, some might need a little pruning, but she makes them all blossom,” says Head of School Lori Menger. She also enjoys floral arranging and, years ago, started the Flower Guild at San Jose Episcopal Church, which is the gracious supplier of the beautiful floral arrangements you see in the school office.
When Susannah isn’t tutoring students, tending to her garden, cooking for someone or otherwise brightening someone’s day, chances are you’ll find her with her two-year-old granddaughter, Eloise.