Community Spotlight-Sandy Hamilton
“This year is going to be a weird year. The pandemic is going to skew everyone’s ability to teach and learn. Don’t get discouraged. Things will be normal again. Reflect on your teaching constantly. You can always get better. Don’t get upset when you have setbacks. Learn from them and grow. Every day is a chance to start again. If you need help making friends on the staff, keep a stash of colored duct tape. Teachers can’t resist pretty duct tape.”
Those are the wise and encouraging words of Sandy Hamilton, a teacher who has inspired young minds across Northeast Texas for a long time. Hamilton retired this year, and reflects here upon her career in education.
Hamilton taught in five districts around our area, including Avery, Hubbard, Hooks, DeKalb, and New Boston. Over those years she had many memorable moments.
She recalls, “A student hugged me and said, “Ms. Sandy, you smell good. You smell like my nanny. You and my nanny got the same stank.”
Another fond memory goes like this. “One boy told me one day I looked young enough to be a teenager. The next day, the same boy told me I looked like I needed to be in a nursing home. It must have been a rough night.”
Hamilton explained one of her favorite memories this way. “Aaron Holt, band director at New Boston, and I were on our way to San Antonio. I asked him who his music teacher was in elementary. He said, ‘She was a really tall woman with brown hair. Her last name started with S.’ I kept asking him about things she taught him. We finally realized that I had been his teacher. I used to be taller.”
Holt also recalls that memory, and says of Hamilton, "Sandy Hamilton went home after her first day of school and knew she wanted to be an Elementary Music teacher. Sandy was determined to make that goal a reality, being in the first grade at that time. It is with that same determination and dedication that she used to teach to EACH and EVERY ONE of her students over the years. Sandy Hamilton is the true definition of what an Educator should be.”
You have to know for Sandy to have been a teacher so long, there had to have been moments of inspiration. There had to have been people who kept her fire bright.
She told us, “Since I went into the family business, my first inspiration as an educator would have to be my dad. He had endless patience and managed to give constructive criticism in a kind way. Each person in his band felt essential to the group regardless of his talent.”
She continues in that vein saying, “Martha Gooding, my elementary music teacher, was a huge influence. As a matter of fact, the first day of first grade, I asked my dad, “Dad, what does Ms. Gooding do when my class isn’t in her room?” My dad said, ‘She teaches the other classes music.’ I said, ‘You mean she gets to stay in there and do that all day?’ He said, ‘Yes, why?’ I said, “That’s what I am going to do.” I never changed my mind.”
Sandy also told us that she absolutely worshipped her freshman English teacher, Ms. Doris McCrary. “She settled for less than my very best. Ours was a friendship that lasted until the end of her life. We called each other on our birthdays. We played the piano and organ together at church. I will never forget her.”
She was also influenced by teachers in college, especially in band. Sandy said, “My band director at the University of Arkansas, Eldon Janzen, taught me how to plan even the smallest details. Early on in his career, he was the band director in New Boston. He’s the cat’s pajamas.”
And to round out those her who inspired her, she comes back to New Boston, and back to music. Sandy describes those influences by saying, “Mary Lovelace was my principal when I started teaching at New Boston. She built my confidence and saw in me things I didn’t see in myself. Richard Lovelace, her husband, was the head band director at New Boston. He let me know my contribution at the elementary level was very important. There will always be a warm place in my heart for the Lovelaces.”
When asked what was the most important thing about being a teacher, Hamilton offers more advice for those teachers in the classroom today. She states, “The most important thing about being a teacher is having an impact on the lives of young people. The youngest students I taught would be around five years old. The oldest students I taught would be now 51 years old. I see some of them in the grocery store with grandkids. Some of them are young enough to be those grandkids.”
She concludes by saying, “I know I was asked what “the most important thing” was. That means one thing. I can’t leave it there, though. My friends on the Oakview staff in New Boston are the very best friends I have ever had. I love them so much. The word “friend” doesn’t quite do the relationships justice.”
Sandy’s life and impact are perhaps summed up by the one who knows her best, and that would be DeKalb Middle School teacher, and her sister, Kelli Fannin. Kelli zeroed in on the life and career of Sandy Hamilton by saying, “She is smart ( I hate watching Jeopardy with her), witty, and loves her students beyond measure. She is my best friend and one of the best teachers in Texas! I wish her the best.”
We all wish you the best Sandy. Thank you for shining a bright light on our school children and giving them your very best, always.