Professor passionate about social justice, equity for all
Ann Sanders has a personal motto, “To he whom much is given, much is expected.”
She tells it to her children, she tells it to her students, and she lives by it.
“It’s Biblical,” she said.
While others may have paraphrased it throughout the years — a plaque in her office credits it to John F. Kennedy — she holds it close in her mind and her heart.
“I have always believed in the American dream, that is, that everyone should have an opportunity,” she said.
Following that dream led Sanders into the field of education.
From her early years she has had a passion for equality.
“I believe in social justice,” Sanders said, noting that her interest dovetails with Baker University’s mission and her own personal values as a Methodist.
Sanders is beginning her fifth year as an associate professor of education and director of continuing education at Baker’s School of Education. Advocacy for social justice, striving for equity for all, and her love for what she calls “the game called school” has enabled Sanders to achieve.
Realizing Social Justice
Sanders graduated as salutatorian from Independence (Kan.) Community College in her hometown before attending Pittsburg State University, where she was named Outstanding Graduating Senior.
“I had a lot of fun in college,” said Sanders, one of two senior honorees, “but I worked hard, too.”
Part of the fun came from leading two nonviolent protests.
When then U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond came to speak at Pitt State, Sanders, along with several other students, brought white bedsheets along with them to the auditorium where he spoke.
“When they announced him, you know, ‘The honorable Strom Thurmond,’ we all stood up and draped them over our heads,” she said.
Sanders said Thurmond paused and lost his words for a moment before she and the other students filed out of the auditorium.
“He didn’t know what to say,” Sanders said, “It was really fun.”
Later when her dorm mother called her in, Sanders refused to accept the idea that her scholarship might be in jeopardy because she exercised her First Amendment rights.
On another occasion Sanders led a groups of students in a protest of a Pittsburg convenience store that didn’t hire anyone of color.
Sanders and her group went into the store in teams of four and filled their baskets with nonperishable food items, but when checking out they simply remarked that they had forgotten their money, walking out of the store, leaving the food with the clerk.
Sanders said the store hired its first black employee within a month.
A Leader in Education
Sanders came to Baker from the Olathe School District, where she served as the director of senior high education.
Before that, she taught for 15 years in the Shawnee Mission School District, and served as the principal of Blue Valley North High School in the Blue Valley School District.
Sanders said she was thinking about retiring from the K-12 world of education when a friend and Baker School of Education faculty member came to her.
“He said they were looking for outstanding Baker doctoral faculty,” said Sanders.
At Baker she has helped organize the annual Practitioners’ Conference for K-12 educators each May at the Baldwin City campus.
Sanders was also the grant administrator for the Fostering Achievement in Middle School Science project that focused on enhancing the quality of inquiry-based middle school science instruction through a partnership with the Topeka and Shawnee Mission public schools. So far, the grant has affected more than 11,000 students.
Sanders received the M. Claradine Johnson Award from AdvancED Kansas, a group that accredits public schools in Kansas, for her work with accreditation teams.
At the School of Education, Sanders works with educators who are seeking to enhance their skills and knowledge.
Sanders said the work she does helps fulfill Baker’s mission.
“Our goal is to put a caring teacher in every classroom,” she said.
Sanders teaches the Foundations of Educational Leadership course, which is the first in the program. She also teaches and developed the Program Planning and Evaluation course.
In Sanders’ courses she trains her doctoral students to be governed by high ethical standards, to seek social justice and to give every child the advantages they would want for their own children.
“Education is equality,” she said, “School is the great equalizer for people who work very hard. When hard work and opportunity meet, you have success.
Sanders’ goal is to prepare educators to become compassionate leaders, sustaining fairness and equity in the classroom.
“Open to everyone who has the opportunity to achieve, that’s the way (school) should be everywhere,” she said.
Her early successes instilled in her the confidence and drive to keep achieving and to do positive work with the blessings she was given.
“I really have lived a blessed life,” Sanders said.