Tressa Sanders Ignites the Young Minds of Jack Anderson Elementary School

by | Apr 2024

IN THE bustling corridors of Jack Anderson Elementary (JAE), where young minds tinker, question, and dream, you’ll discover a guiding star — Principal Tressa Sanders. Sanders sparks curiosity, cultivates wonder, and ignites a passion in young minds for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). 

As a child, Sanders dreamed of being a teacher and would often line her dolls or stuffed animals along the wall and pretend they were her students. She even begged friends to play “school” with her. After she enrolled in college as a pre-pharmacy major, the pull toward education won her back. Now, she’s been an educator for 27 years.

Throughout those years, Sanders has taught second, fourth, fifth, and eighth grades. She’s been an instructional coach and an assistant principal. And since 2017, she’s been the principal of JAE. Sanders has also served on the Tennessee STEM Leadership Committee and was a member of the Governor’s Academy of School Leaders. 

According to the Tennessee According to the Tennessee Innovation Network, there are currently 26 schools within our state that are designated as STEM Schools, and JAE is one of them.

“I continually collaborate with leaders in Sumner County on various committees and teams to enhance learning opportunities. At JAE, we try to create unique STEM experiences for our students to give them opportunities they might not ordinarily have. We have a mini-farm with chickens and goats. Everyone loves to see the goats peeping in the hallway doors. Our farm club meets twice per week, and families volunteer on the farm during weekends and over breaks. 

We have a rose and learning garden, a greenhouse, and multiple grade-level garden beds around campus. Our garden club meets multiple times per week to oversee the greenhouse and main garden. Students learn to create code, use robotics, drones, virtual reality headsets, and create designs using the 3D or laser printers. We are always searching for ways to improve our program and appeal to students’ interests,” explained Sanders.

Sanders surrounds herself with educators; her husband of 25 years, Clay, is also a teacher. Fellow educators introduced the two while Clay was teaching kindergarten at Beech Elementary and Tressa was teaching fourth grade at Nashville Christian School. Their oldest son, Caid, is a junior at Tusculum University, and their daughter, Kylie, is in her sophomore year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Whitten, their youngest son, is a student at JAE. 

“Being able to work alongside my children’s teachers and watch my own children thrive in Sumner County elementary sministrator, has been the greatest gift. My son is a student at my school. I feel like that is a testament to wanting the best opportunities for students. I want the best for my own child, and I want the best for all kids!” 

Tressa believes that as a teacher, there is nothing more rewarding than having the opportunity to impact hundreds of lives positively. For her, this has come full circle now that she serves alongside one of her former fifth-grade students who now teaches at JAE. 

In life, we learn that the 17th-century poet John Donne was right when he wrote, “No man is an island.” Each of us climbs the ladder of success, supported on the rungs by those who encouraged and sacrificed for us. Tressa credits her achievements to her loving husband and parents who support her no matter what, along with fellow educators who continually challenge her to be a better version of herself. 

“The staff at JAE is what makes it so unique. I’ve never worked anywhere quite like it, and I’ve worked in some amazing places. They are my family. I know that sounds cliché, but there is nothing we wouldn’t do for each other or our students. There is a sense of joy at JAE, even when things are hard. The way the teachers show up for kids and for each other is extraordinary. All of you are my superheroes and the people I admire most.” 

To her students, Tressa said, “I want my students to have a sense of agency over entitlement. I want them to know they can do anything — or be anything — because they can achieve it, not because they deserve it. I want them to be problem-solvers and show perseverance and determination. I hope I inspire each of you to believe in yourselves and to know there is nothing you can’t do.” GN 

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