In the classroom for 34 years, Sarah Ward is ready to expand her garden, grow day lilies and enjoy life at her own pace. She is retiring from Whitehouse High School after teaching Spanish and a little French there for 20 years.
Ward got her start at Marshall High School and then it was on to college. She began her studies at Kilgore College and continued on at Stephen F. Austin State University. She was in love with the Spanish language and was looking forward to all of her education classes that would help her learn how to help students to learn.
As she prepared to transfer to SFA, one of her professors sat her down to pass on a little advice. He could see that she had a real passion and aptitude for learning language and he suggested that she begin taking French when she planned her courses at SFA. He explained to her how beneficial it would be to her in her career as a teacher. She could offer students two for the price of one.
Her first classroom was at Nimitz High School in Irving. She was there for 14 years when something wonderful happened. It is called love.
She had known Tom in high school and they were good friends but never had any romantic relationship. But as life is known to do, their paths crossed again and they married.
They wanted their home to be in East Texas so Ward began to look into the school districts in this area.
“Very quickly Whitehouse rose to the top,” Ward said. “I could not have made a better choice. My time here has been wonderful and I was allowed to be me, to teach my students with more than pictures and words on a page.”
And did she ever. Learning was made to reflect as much of real life as possible with projects that included fashion shows where the students planned outfits that included accessories and often some unusual add ons.
Using the marker as a microphone one student would act as the announcer and describe what the student was wearing as they walked the runway and then the roles would reverse.
“You can’t imagine some of the ideas these kids came up with,” Ward laughed. “I gave them room and they took off with it.”
Another favorite in the classroom is just wrapping up now. The students are finishing up their “My Life in 10 Years” projects. Putting the last set of verbs, students will share with the class what they will do in the future, where they will go.
“I tell them that some of them are really young and haven’t taken the opportunity to sit down and think ‘What am I going to do to be a productive member of society,’” Ward said. “This activity opens language doors as well as life doors for them.”
Ward also taught French at both schools, more at Nimitz, but did teach a few French classes at WHS.
“Doing real life things with my classes has been great,” she said. “I love working with the students and letting them make a lot of decisions with some guidance.”
She said it is also good to see former and current students use what they are learning in the real, real world. She has several who, over the years, have gone on to use their Spanish in their career, on the mission field and sometimes just helping out someone at a store or restaurant when they seem to be struggling with getting the Spanish into English.
Ward has a pact with mother that after retirement they will spend every Friday together.
“Whether we go out to eat or I bring something over to cook,” she said. “It won’t matter. We will be together.”
She says she has lots of extended family that she looks forward to seeing more often, attending recitals, ball games and equestrian events.
“I’m looking forward to many things but I will surely miss watching the students use the pieces of the puzzles we give them and watch them succeed,” Ward said. “I’ll miss the people here so much. I really came into my own place here in Whitehouse, being able to create the projects and see how the students take to it.
We’ve come a long way from learning a word from a picture in a book. I feel like what they leave here with is truly real life.”