Jane Sanchez did not initially plan to become a teacher. Her initial idea was to be a journalist.
However, along the way Sanchez discovered she enjoyed working with people, especially kids, and as a result changed her career path.
Sanchez earned a degree in elementary education from St. Cloud State University.
Having grown up in the area and graduated from Wabasso High School, it made sense that Sanchez would become a teacher in the area, but how she ended up spending the majority of her career in the Redwood Area School District actually began a long way from home.
“I started teaching in January 1978 in Mexico City,” said Sanchez.
What began as a student teaching experience in an international school setting became a full-time elementary teaching position.
“I taught third grade,” said Sanchez, adding the school served the children of business leaders and government officials as well as Mexican nationals. “It was a huge school for students in preschool through high school.”
Sanchez continued in that role for four years before moving to the Dallas, Texas area where she taught fourth grade at a new elementary school.
While Sanchez appreciated those teaching experiences, home was calling her back, and so in 1985 she relocated to Minnesota and ultimately was hired to teach fourth grade at Reede Gray Elementary School.
Sanchez who opted to stay home for a period of time to raise her boys worked at Reede Gray from 1987-93.
In 1993, Sanchez moved again, but this time the move was much shorter – just across the community to the Redwood Valley Middle School/High School campus where she began working in the classroom where she would spend the rest of her career.
“I started teaching sixth-grade science,” said Sanchez, adding that was quite a bit different than the self-contained classrooms of elementary school.
Now she was teaching science to all of the sixth graders.
“I love science,” said Sanchez, who also earned a secondary reading degree along the way.
At the sixth-grade level, students learn about physical science, and Sanchez pointed out that provides for a lot of hands-on opportunities in her classroom. She referred to two recent projects the students had been working on, including building structures with toothpicks and marshmallows, as well as building bridges out of pasta.
For the last seven years, Sanchez has also been teaching math at the middle-school level for Redwood Valley, but all of that has now come to an end.
As of last week, Sanchez walked out of her classroom for the final time having retired after 38 years as an educator. For Sanchez, being an educator was never just about teaching a subject to the students who entered her classroom. It was about being part of the lives of students who are going through a lot of things as they grow, mature and change and preparing them for high school.
Sanchez said she has always appreciated being able to connect with the students she has had in her classroom over the years and having them share with her what impacted them.
Sanchez said she believes now is the time to step down, as it will give her the chance to spend more time with her family, including her children and their families.
“I am looking forward to getting up and enjoying a slow cup of coffee,” she said with a smile.
Sanchez said she will miss the atmosphere of the middle school, adding that includes the staff and the students but also all of the activities and events the middle school did together. Another of the things Sanchez appreciated was the chance she had to go on field trips.
“Some of these students have never been out of Redwood County,” said Sanchez, adding it was always fun to see their eyes wide open as they had those new experiences.
While Sanchez is stepping down from her role at Redwood Valley Middle School, education will still be part of her life, as she will continue serving in a summer migrant school program at BOLD High School in Olivia. Sanchez serves as the coordinator for that six-week program, adding she plans to continue doing that for a few more years.
Sanchez said she is also considering the option of serving as a substitute teacher. She also plans to spend time volunteering.
Sanchez enjoyed the privilege she had to be part of the lives of students for 38 years, to open their eyes to new ideas and concepts and to know she was making a difference in the lives of future generations.