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Sarah Hancock – Garland Elementary

Sarah Hancock was a first year teacher last year (2014-2015) when my daughter, Becca, was in her 5th grade class at Garland Elementary. It was also Becca’s first year at Garland Elementary school in Garland, UT. As the start of another school year approached, Becca expressed her concerns to me about having a new teacher and telling the teacher about her “situation”. You see, Becca was born with ptosis and third nerve palsy of her right eye. She had surgery to save the sight in her right eye at 6 weeks old. Because her right eye lacks the necessary muscles to open and close the eye, she had to have the eye surgically sewn open. Another result of the lack of muscles is that the eye and surrounding tissue aren’t shaped the same as her left eye. The right eye is receded and appears smaller than the left. Due to palsy of the third nerve, 4 of 6 muscles that move the eye are paralyzed and nonfunctional, so she has little control of movement of that eye.

Before school started we went in to visit with Mrs. Hancock to explain how Becca uses each eye independently to allow optimum use of both eyes. (They function independent of one another, kind of like a chameleon.) 🙂 We call her right eye her “special eye”. Becca expressed her nervousness to Mrs. Hancock about how other kids in the class would respond to her as well. Mrs. Hancock was compassionate and caring. She asked Becca if she felt anything should be addressed in advance to her classmates, and if so, how she would like to handle it. Mrs. Hancock also shared a book with us titled WONDER. She sent a copy of the book home with us and suggested that I read it with Becca. She suggested that it would be an excellent story for the class to read together. The book is a work of fiction about a boy born with some physical disabilities and how his 5th grade class at a new school responded to his differences, and discovered their many similarities as they looked beyond out ward appearances to see the beauties that lie within. It proved to be the perfect remedy to Becca’s concerns.

Mrs. Hancock brought enthusiasm and love of learning to her students. As a recent college graduate herself, her love of learning was contagious. As a brand new teacher she was full of new ideas to teach age-old subjects. As a literacy volunteer in her classroom I was able to see her interaction with her students. She created an optimal learning environment with her organizational skills and her down-to-earth nature. Becca is the youngest of my 5 children and I have volunteered in all of my children’s classrooms over the years. I’ve never been in a classroom that was better organized and more inviting and conducive to learning.

Sarah Hancock spent the year teaching her students and also having fun with them. In the few minutes spent preparing to go to lunch or to go home she would play the guitar and teach them fun songs with different parts that could be sung together. I’m a huge believer in the power of music in brain development and also in its effect on the brain’s memory capabilities. Those songs were not only helpful in instructing her students, the music also unified them and allowed them to have fun learning together. She had a way of making her classroom feel like home away from home for her students; a fun-filled, safe learning environment.

At the end of the year she created a new tradition as a teacher by sharing one of her own childhood traditions with her class. As a child, on the last day of school her family would watch cartoons from “the good old days” that her dad would project on to a sheet on the side of the house or the garage door. She had a party on the evening of the last day of school and invited not only her students but their entire families to watch those old-time cartoons. Her parents came with her and her dad projected those cartoons she grew up watching annually, for her students and their families to enjoy. She even provided the popcorn. 🙂

As a parent of one of her students, I could sing the praises of Sarah Hancock all day long. She had a wildly successful first season (year). She absolutely gets my nomination for not only “rookie of the year” but “teacher of the year” as well.

–Jennifer Richardson