April Sanders, Ph.D., did not set out to be a teacher. In fact, it was the very last thing she ever wanted to be; but by happenstance, she ended up in a classroom. The first time Sanders stepped in front of students and started teaching, she felt at home. She has always been highly comfortable being in a classroom, even if it was a classroom with challenging students or in complicated situations. Sanders knew all issues could be dealt with, handled and worked upon. She felt like teaching was her calling. Recently, Sanders and her wife moved back to Texas from Mobile, Alabama, to start a new adventure at A&M-Commerce.
A Conversation With Dr. Sanders
What would you tell a student who is thinking about attending A&M-Commerce?
A&M-Commerce is the perfect mix between the personalized support and instruction you often find in smaller school settings and the tools, options and degree programs available at larger institutions. Due to its size, you get the best of both worlds. Also, you have several opportunities to be involved and go down different paths while having a lot of personalized support and instruction.
What draws you to your discipline?
I began as an English teacher and then I became an administrator for K-12. I went back and completed my doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in language and literacy. I have always had that literacy aspect with my teaching. What draws me to the field is that I think there are all of these great platitudes about how teaching is important, which it is, but the reality is that not everyone can teach well, and not everyone has all of the tools to teach well, whether that is strategies, curriculum etc.
For me, I think curriculum and instruction is a lot like the movie “The Wizard of Oz,” when they pull back that curtain to reveal what is really going on. Curriculum and instruction is what goes on behind the curtain in the classroom. I think that is extremely important because so many of our students need different kinds of support. We have teachers who can use a variety of tools and strategies to excel where they need it. For myself, I really like those inner workings of how things happen, and that's what draws me into this field.
What has been your favorite course to teach?
I enjoy teaching reading courses that talk about how to teach literacy because I think that if we can teach someone how to read effectively, then they have several more options in their future. I believe creating quality reading teachers is integral to later successes in a lot of different fields. At the same time, I like working with student resident teachers. I enjoy it because that is the time when preservice teachers are able to see their dreams unfold. It is not always perfect, and sometimes we will have the good and the bad, which is when we get to figure out how we can make them better. This is the time when you take all that stuff you talked about in the coursework, and you are really in the thick of it, dealing with things, and that, to me, is a really exciting time with preservice teachers. We see them grow to be great teachers, and that is why it is my favorite course to teach.
Tell us about a project you are currently working on or recently completed.
During the pandemic, my colleagues and I published a book. I got to edit the manuscripts with my two colleagues from A&M-Commerce about LGBTQ+ policy and curriculum in K-12 schools. This project took a little over two years, and it was finally published. It is a huge and important project to me, so it has been a big marker for 2020.
Currently, I’m working on some research that connects to edTPA, which is a portfolio that student teachers create to show their work in the classroom and with their students. It is a reflective base, and it’s their own work, where they put it together to submit for scoring. So, what I’m working on is discovering best practices to support them when we talk through the portfolio within what they need to write and how they do the reflection.
What is something you’re passionate about that relates to your work?
One thing I am passionate about is the work I have done related to LGBQ+ issues. It is extremely important that people like myself be a voice for those who cannot. I want to be able to highlight the issues in research that deal with LGBQ+ students, and I feel a responsibility to speak up because there were many people before me who did their part in being a voice, and there will be people after me who need to know we used our voices.
- Ph.D., Curriculum and Instruction, University of North Texas, 2013
- M.Ed., Educational Administration, Stephen F. Austin State University, 2002
- M.A., English Literature, University of Central Arkansas, 1996
- B.A., English Literature, University of Central Arkansas, 1995
- Assistant Dean, College of Innovation and Design, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2022-present
- Associate Professor and Assistant Department Head, Texas A&M University-Commerce, 2020-2022
- Associate Professor, Spring Hill College, 2013-2020
- Graduate Teaching Fellow, University of North Texas, 2009-2013
- Principal (EC-12), Texas Professional Certificate, 2003-2024
- Secondary English (6-12), Texas Teaching Certification, 1999-2024
Awards and Honors
- Mitchell Faculty Research Grant, Spring Hill College, $5000, 2018-2020
- Dawson Faculty Research Award, Spring Hill College, $2500, 2019
- St. John Berchmans Teaching Excellence Aware, Spring Hill College Student Organization and Leadership Council, 2017
- edTPA Implementation, Alabama State Department of Education, $15,000, 2015-2018
- Use of new literacies in K-12 classrooms
- How preservice teachers are prepared to teach in a modern classroom
- LGBTQ+ curriculum development
- Preparing preservice teachers for edTPA.
- American Educational Research Association
- National Council of Teachers of English