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Teacher of the Week: Sackstein’s passion for writing

By Samantha Ubertini and Michelle Psaltakis

Ms. Sackstein, 8th, 11th, and 12th AP English and Newspaper

Photo taken by Samantha Ubertini and Michelle Psaltakis of our "Starr" teacher Mrs. Sackstein.
Photo taken by Samantha Ubertini and Michelle Psaltakis of our “Starr” teacher Ms. Sackstein.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

– I think I really had a deep need to do something positive, to change the world as silly as that sounds. I worked in computers before becoming a teacher. That definitely wasn’t cutting it, so I basically decided that teaching would be the best course of action. More contact with others meant helping more people.

Why did you choose to teach this subject?

– I think I’ve always had a passion for writing. I had a minor in creative writing, and I fell into journalism. I’d taken on the newspaper in an earlier school and it just worked out that I really enjoyed it, and now I do both.

How many years have you been a teacher?

-This is my 12th year teaching. I really love being around my students.  I love and enjoy  that I am able to share my passion which, is a pretty swell way to spend my day. I feel like I’m really the lucky one with most kids. For the most part I’ve enjoyed most of my 12 years and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

What teacher had impacted your life when you were in school?

– I had a really special 12th grade English teacher; we called her MK. She really listened to me when I really didn’t feel like I was being heard at home. I shared a lot of writing with her and we talked about books a lot. Because of her I wanted to be an English teacher and not any other subject. Because of the impact she had on me I was inspired to pursue this career.

What makes you different from all the other teachers?

– I think I have a reputation of being tough, but fair. Beside the fact that the tattoos set me apart from other teachers,  the methodology of teaching makes me unique too. Since standards are set high, I make it a point to let my students choose their own way.

What sacrifices have you made since being a teacher?

– Mostly sleep and financial reward, I’ve given up on those. Pretty much as a teacher you have more than one job to make ends meet. I have a child so I lost a lot of time with him just to make teaching run smoothly. It takes up a lot of time to be a  teacher, to make sure everything gets done. The biggest sacrifice is definitely time.

Do you have any secret talents? If so, what are they?

– I don’t know if they’re a secret. I write and sing. I’m wicked talented on the Rainbow Loom. I fancied myself an athlete when I was a kid, (basketball, soccer, volleyball, and softball). I guess my hidden talent is my writing. I do a lot of writing out of school about teaching, and a lot of creative writing too.

Has being a teacher changed who you are? For better or worse?

– I don’t know if it’s changed me. I’m pretty authentic of being a teacher. I try to be humble and admit when I don’t know things. Sometimes I’m meaner than I’d like to be but it’s what I have to be. Teaching really gives me the opportunity to be as authentic as I want to be.

What do you believe the ups and downs of being a teacher are?

– There’s a lot of different things. Educational initiatives always change and budgets always change. A lot of things are out of our control which changes everything. It presents a lot of questions that I cannot discuss at this moment. The highs are when you see students really getting it, and you know  students know, they’re safe going to you and not anyone else. This really makes the highs better than the worse. There are people who just get by, there are people who make or break teaching, and there are the weird people. You get to make your space exactly how you want to be and take a lot of risks. What’s the worse that could happen? If it doesn’t work out, then you just apologize.

Have your students impacted you as a teacher?

-Absolutely. Over the course of the 12 years I’m still in touch with a lot of my students. I’m really blessed that I can make connections with my kids, and that they want to keep in touch with me.  Every single one of those kids, have made an impact on my life. The second year I was teaching at WJPS, I was promised that they’d be with me throughout their high school careers, and it was devastating when I didn’t have them the next year, when we had to separate. For whatever reason it was beautifully dynamic that we all got together, and shared something special. Magic happened, but outside the classroom none of them talked. My staff and I spend a lot of time with each other, everyone has access when I get to the place when I trust someone. Then they all have full access to me.

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