Mr. Sanders interview

Will Gillette '22

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Mr. Sanders is a new member of the SSSAS English Department, teaching 9th and 10th grade. He recently moved into the DC area from Georgia. He is very excited to be here and looking forward to teaching here at SSSAS!


Will: So, where are you from?


Mr. Sanders: Oh, that's always a hard question for me, because I moved around a lot. So I was born in Lewisville, Texas, which is a suburb of Dallas. But when I was three, we moved to the Atlanta area. And then when I was 12, or 13, we moved to Chicago and I went to middle school and high school in Chicago. So it's interesting. It's hard for me to pin down because I feel like for two very different formative time periods I was in different places.


W: Okay, so where did you go to college?


S: I did my undergrad at Baylor University and graduate school at Yale Divinity School.


W: What did you major in and what was your graduate degree?


S: So when I started at Baylor, I was a pre med student. I was a biology major. I was also earning a minor in religious studies. And when I was a junior, I decided I wanted to switch. So I actually graduated with a degree with a BA in religion, minors and biology and chemistry. And then I went to graduate school at Yale Divinity School, and I have an MA in religion.


W: So how long have you been in the DC area for?


S: I got here in June.


W: So how did you end up as an English teacher?


S: It was a long road, I started teaching religious studies in Houston, Texas. And when I went to my last school, which was a boarding school in Georgia, I started initially as religious studies, but I started taking on more and more humanities classes. And eventually some of those became English classes. And I loved it. And I found that there's a lot of crossover between doing Religious Studies. I feel like there is a lot of relation between the two. 


W: What attracted you to St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School?


S: Oh, it's a great school. I love the fact that it's an Episcopal School. I've worked in Episcopal School before. And I love that it's a big tent that celebrates different people, different perspectives, different identities. It's a school that has their stuff together. People here are wonderful. Everybody is kind, professional and supportive. So it’s no wonder I ended up here.


W: So what are you looking most forward to here? Maybe like a specific class or specific thing you're going to teach?


S: So I really love that in the English department there are kind of set classes and then for a few years in senior year, they're filled with electives. I love the choice that's involved there. So in the future, I would love to be involved in designing an elective and offering it.


W: So, I saw that you previously taught religion. Do you plan on incorporating any of your religious knowledge or teachings into your teaching plan this year for your English class?


S: Yeah, absolutely. I'm not exactly sure how yet, but as I'm looking at some of the texts we're reading, many of them do have religious themes and religious elements. So I'm excited to draw from some of the religious experiences in Odyssey and expand upon them.


W: As you said earlier, can you go more into depth about what was going through your head when you switched- maybe give more advice for anyone who's kind of battling what they want to do? 


S: Yeah, absolutely. You know, when I went to college, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I knew that I liked biology, like AP bio, when I was in high school it was my favorite class. And so as I was kind of exploring that, I decided that, you know, the med school route might be the right route for me, but I didn't want to be locked into the sciences. I wanted to have a little bit of diversity. And so that's why I started taking classes in religion, because I found it interesting. It also allowed me to have a study abroad experience at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. That experience changed the trajectory of my life, really, that study abroad experience. I took a break from sciences, I took all religion and philosophy classes. And when I came back to Baylor after that experience, I had one class left and then I was done with my religion minor. For the rest of my college career, it was just going to be sciences. And I was like, I don't want to stop with my religious studies because I'm really interested in this. I want to explore it more. So I changed, and it was hard. My family was like what are you going to do with these new classes? I said, well, I have plans on going to grad school, maybe going on and doing a PhD, I want to work in a college someday. And while I was in grad school, I loved it, but that's when I realized that the ivory tower of the University is not what I'm meant to do. I love teaching. And so I wanted to come back to high school to put that into practice. 


W: So you definitely went through a lot of transformation in college. Do you think your high school self would see where you are now? What was your plan?


S: No, no, no, absolutely not. No. When I was in high school, I didn't have a plan. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was certain I was never going to be a teacher.  Actually, when I was in high school, English was my least favorite. So I've changed a lot since high school. So it's kind of funny looking back. I do wonder what you know, 17-18 year old me would say.


W: What are your outside hobbies or stuff like what do you do when, like, on a Saturday, Sunday?


S: Yeah, so I'm a big runner. I love running. I've also coached in the past cross country and track but yeah, I'm a big runner. I love doing really anything outdoors. I love hiking. I'm a big fly fisherman so I really like fishing. Yeah, and if I'm not doing one of those things, I'm probably taking my dogs to the dog park or taking them for walks with my wife. 


W: Yeah, great. Okay. Last question I end with as an English teacher, what is your favorite book and why?


S: Okay, this is not a good response from the English teacher rather more from a religion teacher. My favorite book of all time is Confessions by Saint Augustine. It's kind of an autobiographical thing with some philosophy at the end, but it kind of tells the story of his life from birth through his conversion to Christianity. And it's a book that everytime I read I find something new in it.