What does a bartender with a math degree do when they realize their true calling is to be a teacher? For Sathya Wandzek the path was revealed through her work with PEBC’s Teacher Residency program.
“The application was long, and I was just proud to finish it and turn it in,” says Wandzek. “I remember when the letter came. I sat on the floor of my living room with the unopened envelope in front of me. Once I opened it, I couldn’t believe I was accepted. I was excited about the opportunity. I was also scared. I couldn’t pass it up.”
Wandzek says she was ecstatic PEBC took a chance on her and invited her to be part of the first-ever residency group.
“PEBC saw something different in me. They looked for who I am as a person. They gave me a chance,” she says. “I am so grateful to PEBC for opening that door.”
The first residency cohort was small, just 12 people. For Wandzek, the size was just right, and the year-long training was life-changing.
“It was such an amazing experience,” she says. “We had this community to depend upon and rely on. I still speak to many of them all the time. We were connected from the start.”
Beyond the connections and seminars, Wandzek credits the classroom residency aspect as being instrumental in preparing her for life in the classroom. She especially liked the fact that she was able to be in a classroom from the start of the year through the last day, which is not typical in other programs.
“They scaffolded that experience for us. We saw the first day and the last day. No other program is like that, and it helped us learn the dynamics of working with other teachers for an entire school year,” she says. “We’re all different teachers. It was good to see the different ways that teachers think.”
The residency program also helped her discover her love of middle school teaching, which she says she would not have known without the opportunity to work inside the classroom. She was so thankful for the experience that she decided to become a mentor and guide others who, like her, were shifting their careers.
“In my third year of teaching, I realized that I wanted to do more. I wanted to be a part of that learning experience,” she said. “One of my residents was an engineer and the other was in aerospace. They both wanted to find more purpose in what they did. I’m excited to say that they are both still teaching.”
Wandzek says mentoring new teachers also helped her stay a sharp, focused and engaged teacher.
“Having residents come in and ask questions makes you question what you do and think about what you want. It helps determine, ‘Is this what the kids need?’” she says. “Being a mentor gave me opportunities to have those hard conversations, because – in the end – it’s about the kids.”
With a deep belief in the impact of PEBC, Wandzek chose to leave the classroom to become a staff developer for PEBC. She is thrilled with the opportunity to make a wide-reaching and lasting impact on teachers and students.
“PEBC has been this amazing door and amazing opportunity and really gave me this dynamic career. I am very grateful,” she says.