Teacher of the year
By: Laura Levering
Sandra Owens, named Richmond County Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year, assists one of her students during classroom instruction at freedom Park Elementary. Laura Levering / Fort Gordon Public Affairs OfficeShe had a distinguished career in the Army and now she is distinguishing herself among her colleagues in a second career.
Sandra Owens was named Richmond County Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year during an awards banquet held at the Augusta Marriott Nov. 2. Owens, a fifth-grade teacher at Freedom Park, said she was in somewhat disbelief as she heard her name read.
“Even though I saw myself as a winner at the school level, I did not necessarily see myself as a winner at the county level,” Owens said. “I thought, ‘Wow. What a month, what a day, what an hour to be a teacher.’”
From as early as childhood, Owens desired to make life-changing differences in others’ lives. As the eldest sibling, she remembers teaching her brothers what she had learned at school on any given day.
“I actually influenced them, so when I thought about the influence I could have on the minds of our youth, I was sold,” Owens said.
But she waited about 20 years to fulfill her destiny. Rather than go straight into teaching, Owens earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Georgia then joined the Army as a logistics officer. Owens said her father, also a Veteran, had an influence on her chosen path.
“It all really started with living in a home and traveling with a military father,” Owens said.
While attending UNG, the state’s military college, Owens said she was given opportunities that sharpened her leadership skills, built character and confidence, added discipline to her life, and emphasized the importance of teamwork.
“Those elements became a part of me and carried me through 20 years in the military, so naturally, I try to instill those same elements in my classroom,” Owens said.
Those elements can be seen in her interaction with students and in the way her teaching philosophy plays out daily.
“Because I believe all students can learn at their unique level, I reach to teach, and I teach to reach,” Owens said. “Sometimes I have to reach a child first before they’re willing to really accept my teaching. And for other students, once I teach them, I’ve reached them. But regardless, that performance-based, student-centered type of environment is very important for the students.”
And while those elements are prominent in the classroom, where students are her top priority, they are also seen outside her classroom doors.
“I do not know how she does what she does,” said Sabrina Rose, fourth-grade teacher.
Rose admitted she was somewhat intimidated when she first learned she was teaching next door to Owens. But that quickly changed.
“She’s such a pristine teacher,” Rose said. “I was just intimidated because she had retired from the military, but whenever I came over here … she was just very caring, giving, and just always helping us to be the best we can be.”
The two have known each other for about seven years and have gotten to know each other on a more personal and professional level in the last year.
Rose said since she began teaching in 1999, there have only been two people she truly admires. Owens is one of them.
“It’s a privilege to work beside someone who is such a great teacher, but it’s more than that,” Rose said. “It’s an honor and privilege to be able to know her on a personal level, too.”
Cassandra Reed, fifth-grade teacher, said she was surprised to hear Owens won Teacher of the Year.
Reed described Owens as “skilled at her craft” and is the type of person who will go out of her way to help students and teachers alike.
“I was reading something on the definition of leadership, and it embodies Owens,” Reed said. “Leadership is the ability to get people to willingly come with you by what you do but not by what you tell them; and she will get people to come with her by what she does.”