Teacher appreciation: Mari Sanchez, grooming students from age four in transitional kindergarten

10.20.2016 | Daily Democrat | Tommy McCormick

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Molding the future generations to be a productive and positive part of society is perhaps the toughest aspect of a teacher’s job.

For Mari Sanchez, it’s also the most important.

Sanchez, born and raised in Esparto, helped create the transitional kindergarten program — which is a class for the children too young to make the kindergarten cutoff — in the Woodland School District five years ago.

She started working in Parks and Recreation for the City of Woodland before getting her master’s in education and getting into student teaching.

This is her sixth year teaching transitional kindergarten at Maxwell Elementary.

“It’s a great program that essentially brings it back to the basics, the music, the art, the crafts, the dancing, the playing, learning from peers, dramatic play. It was like what kindergarten was like when I was little,” she said. “We go over letters, sounds and numbers. They’re young so we focus on instructional strategies that gets them up and down and moving around.”

All of Sanchez’s aunts were kindergarten teachers growing up, she joked that it was just in her blood. She added that this age group — four year olds — was just meant for her due to the innately fun nature of the kids.

In her time at Maxwell, Sanchez participated in the BTSA — Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment — and the Intern Support Program. Both help newer teachers get acclimated and critique them so they can grow as educators.

She also spent time as the PTA treasurer, the ACES co-coordinator, an afterschool program at Maxwell, and helped out with the Sunshine Committee which organizes potlucks or parties for the staff to increase unity and promote a family feel throughout the school.

The most important role, according to Sanchez, is being the transitional kindergarten leader.

The program originally began with just Sanchez and one other teacher at Maxwell, there are now seven teachers in total.

“I like it because I was able to do the assessments, make the curriculum, really shape it in my vision,” she said. “We get so many compliments from the kindergarten teachers saying the kids are coming in ready and they are just ahead of their years.”

Sanchez said she couldn’t have gotten to where she is today without the support of both principals during her time at Maxwell, previously Ricardo Perez and now Bradley Clagg. She added that the students’ parents have always been supportive and the staff as a whole is welcoming.

Her focus is to groom her students to be good people, to not only teach them academics but manners and respect as well.

“My main goal is to make these kids into great citizens and to make them feel successful each day. Whether it’s something small or big, just knowing that they can do it is important.”

Contact Tommy McCormick at 530-406-6236.

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