Congratulations to Ms. Sandra Wilson for being named 2022’s Teacher of the Year! Ms. Wilson, who teaches Social Studies, is retiring this year after a valuable 34-year career at Niles North. She is kind, personable, and friendly, and she clearly cares deeply about her students.
Social Studies Department Director Scott Dahlberg called Ms. Wilson someone who speaks out for what she thinks is right. “She speaks up when she sees injustice or things that are wrong. She’s very quick to speak up when she thinks we should do things differently or better.”
In her earlier years teaching at North, she started an initiative for teachers to get equity training to educate themselves on matters of race, sexual orientation and other social issues so that they could communicate better with all students. Quite a few teachers participated, and now receiving equity as a D219 teacher is the norm.
Dahlberg also said that Ms. Wilson is a planner and an organizer. “She’s always planned farther in advance than me. Calendars, long-range plans, having materials ready ahead of time- I think that’s been her biggest impact on me.”
When I spoke to Ms. Wilson about her nomination, she was very eager to communicate with me, and so easy to talk to. Here are her answers:
What have you learned about teaching in your years at North and as a teacher in general? What I have learned about teaching here at North is that no one is an expert in everything. I have learned to say to students “I don’t know, but let’s find out.” I have made MANY mistakes as a teacher. But my colleagues have always helped me process where I have gone wrong and how I can make it better for the next time. There are SO MANY fabulous teachers at Niles North. I am in awe of the outstanding teachers here who bring their expertise and joy into the classroom each and every day. I have been honored to work beside them these past 34 years.
What advice do you have for students? I don’t buy the argument that you have all “missed out” during this pandemic. Have some people been adversely affected by the pandemic? OF COURSE, however, it has also taught us important lessons: tenacity and grit are important qualities. I think mental health has been highlighted and I hope more people are seeking the help they need. No one can get through a pandemic without good friends. Hang onto those good friends. The ones that have seen you at your worst. The ones who you called on at your lowest points, who lifted you up – those are true friends.
What is your favorite thing about teaching? 100% the interactions with students. Teenagers are such a vital group, full of energy and high hopes. I love working with your age group. In addition, it keeps me young at heart!
Why did you become a teacher? I started college at Lawrence University as a music major. I used to play the piano, the violin and I used to sing. I have even sung at weddings! At Lawrence I had to take music theory and I pretty quickly discovered that my passion for music would never turn into a paying job. My other true love was history. So, I continued to play in the orchestra and sing in choir but I turned my attention to history and education. I think the fact that my mom was an elementary school teacher also influenced me. Just a little trivia – my daughter is also a teacher! She teaches special ed. – so we have 3 generations of teachers in my family.
How long have you been teaching at North, and how long in general? I started teaching at a private school in 1986. I have been at Niles North High School since 1988. So a grand total of 36 years!
At the end, Ms. Wilson added in her “own shoutout”:
I simply could not have done this job without Mrs. Bordenet. She has been a true friend to me these last 29 years we have taught together. She has celebrated with me, she has cried with me and most importantly, laughed with me – and probably sometimes at me. She has helped shape me into the person I am today and I want to say thank you to her!
Congratulations again to Ms. Wilson- you deserve it! We hope you continue to make the kinds of impacts on people that you’ve made on the Niles North community.