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Check Out Eunice Sanders’ Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Eunice Sanders.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
I am a Durham, North Carolina native that grew up in the West end area with my five siblings and parents, Reuben and Nekoda O’Neal.

I attended the former Durham City Schools graduating from Durham High School years ago (let’s not count them!) I knew I wanted to pursue higher education, so I went on to attend North Carolina Central University (any fellow Eagles reading???) to earn a B.A. in Sociology, then continued on to complete my M.A. in Special Education, and then my M.Ed in School administration.

My calling was transforming the public school system, the very one that I graduated from which later became Durham Public Schools, so I also earned my Ed.D in school administration from North Carolina State University- Go Wolfpack!

Along my journey, I married my husband, Carlton L. Sanders who retired from IT at Duke Hospital. Needless to say, being of service to our community is a passion we share. I have two children and one grandchild that continue to impress me every day with their accomplishments.

I proudly retired from Durham Public Schools as an Assistant Superintendent after serving for 30 years in many roles: teacher, assistant principal at both the elementary and secondary levels, and a Central Services employee.

I use the word “retirement” loosely as I continue to be a Leadership Coach with principals in Durham Public Schools and am the Executive Director of Crayons2Calculators, a local nonprofit that directly equips Durham Public School teachers with the classroom supplies they need- at no cost- to help reduce barriers to success for every DPS student.

As the Durham Public School District is growing by opening a new elementary school that will begin welcoming students this academic year, Lyon Farm Elementary, and Crayons2Calculators now serving more teachers than ever, I will always be an advocate for local teachers and equity in education,

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I have had to overcome three main obstacles while building my career in public education: pay equity, serving under-resourced student populations, and diversity differences.

The disparities teachers experience today, like having to spend their own money on supplies for their students and classrooms all while being underpaid, were the same obstacles in pursuing a career in education.

The fact that in our current society teachers spend an average of $750 out of pocket on classroom supplies (adoptaclassroom.org) and earn 19% less than similarly skilled and educated professionals (National Education Association) is what fuels my passion for the mission of Crayons2Calculators – providing teachers the most needed supplies at no cost to reduce barriers to success for students.

As an educator in Durham, I had to rise above and create different learning opportunities for students that came to school mentally preoccupied with home life, without supplies, or behind grade level. All of these are barriers that many students face that limit their ability to learn and require additional resources, time, and funding from teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors- often working in smaller groups to achieve the best outcomes.

This is true for many students enrolled at DPS as 62.2% of students qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program demonstrating economic hardships in the communities we teach. Students need to be emotionally and socially supported at school too which includes having leaders that “look” like them.

Schools need staff that more closely mirror the world and their classroom populations.

The trend in America is that teachers are far less racially and culturally diverse than the students they teach, I recently read an article from STEPS (Student Training & Education in Public Service) that reported “Less than one in five U.S. public school teachers is a person of color, while nearly half of K-12 students are individuals of color”

. Diversity is important DPS is no different with nearly 81% of students identifying as non-white. Diversity is a factor that plays a role in being a successful educator.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Being retired, I have been able to choose the role I play in the community now so I have chosen to be a resource however I can to many.

Oftentimes, I may be seen mentoring new principals, providing free supplies to teachers, connecting with students outside of the classroom, or providing reassurance to DPS parents and new teachers. I would say that building community relationships and harnessing our community resources for good is my superpower.

I am most proud of being able to give back to the community I grew up in, or better yet, the community that raised me and helped me become the person I am today.

Any big plans?
No big changes are on the horizon. I love what I do serving as a mentor to DPS principals and being the Executive Director of Crayons2Calculators so all I want to do is grow those programs to be better, stronger, and more impactful.

I am currently working with the board and volunteers of Crayons2Calculator on our largest annual, community-wide school supply drive from July 11 through August 12 that sustains our programming throughout the entire school year.

We want to make more supplies, higher priced items, available for teachers like primary calculators, electronic pencil sharpeners, earbuds, and flash drives building on the recent success we had of raising enough funds and supply donations earlier this year to now offer skin-tone art supplies.

The ways of teaching have forever changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic so our offerings to teachers are changing too based on their feedback,

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