By Kelly Hagen, NDU Communications

It’s never too late to make a change.

“I began my career at L.E. Berger Elementary, teaching kindergarten,” Sandra Evenson said. “I also taught first, second and fourth grade. Each grade level I moved to, taught me new and exciting things about students of those ages and brought new colleagues into my life. For years, I had a desire to teach at the middle school level. However, the bonds between students, families and colleagues kept me at the elementary level.”

Sandy Evenson, a science teacher for Cheney Middle School in West Fargo, was one of five finalists for the 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award.

While she was teaching fourth grade, though, she piloted a STEM science unit, which awoke a curiosity in her. “I loved the STEM approach and realized that I needed to look at my ‘bucket list’ and my desire to teach at the middle school level.”

So she applied for a science teacher opening at Cheney Middle School in 2016, and got the job. After 24 years teaching at the elementary level, she started anew as a middle school science teacher. “I am very thankful to be a part of Cheney Middle School,” she said. “I am blessed with strong administration, and welcoming colleagues. The sixth-grade students that I have had the privilege to work with, have brought excitement into teaching each day. By acknowledging my bucket list and embracing change, I am able to focus my attention on science while working with amazing science co-workers.”

The results of Evenson’s career change have been nothing less than remarkable. In her second year at Cheney, she was named the West Fargo School District professional staff member of the year and was one of five finalists selected from a competitive field of nominees for the 2018 North Dakota Teacher of the Year award.

She said that she shares these honors with all of her partners in education, including her co-workers in teaching, the support staff at all of the schools in West Fargo, administrators she has worked with, and the parents of the many students she’s had to privilege to instruct. “I provide a classroom that is structured, where students know what their expectations are, and what to expect from class each day,” Evenson said. “I call students by name, and take time to visit with them. You will see smiles and hear laughter throughout the school week in my classroom. I’m very proud of that.”

Evenson has been an inspiration to all the students who have passed through her classrooms over the year. For one of her students, Evenson made enough of an impact to inspire her to go on to become a fourth-grade teacher, too. Nicole Eisenzimmer, from South Elementary School in West Fargo, thanks Evenson for fostering a love of learning into her life. “Some of my favorite memories include doing handwriting, getting to correct my own spelling tests, class read-alouds and Camp Learned a Lot,” Eisenzimmer said. “I hope to continue to pass this on with my students.”

Sandy Evenson stands outside of Fargo South High School after the 2018 N.D. Teacher of the Year ceremony with Gov. Doug Burgum and Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

Evenson would like to pass on some of the lessons she’s learned to the upcoming generations of teachers to come. “Teaching is more than just the lessons you present to students from the textbooks,” she said. “It is constantly trying to improve yourself, in an ever-changing world, while focusing on individual student needs. The atmosphere you set in your classroom on a daily basis, the ways that you make students feel while in your classroom, will be something that students remember for years to come.

“Remember that each day is a golden opportunity to touch the life of a child,” she said, in closing. “Things that we do each day, on a regular basis, no matter how big or small, can leave life-long memories for a student.”