Teacher finds encouragement after returning for degree later in life

PLAINVIEW – Wayland Baptist University has long considered itself an open door to students who may not fit the traditional mold. While the Plainview campus is home to many who are just out of high school, more and more of WBU’s students are returning after years away and finding a place to seek dreams they have put on hold.

In Sandee Hancock’s case, the dream wasn’t too far from her reach once she made up her mind. Approaching 50, Hancock recently started her third year as a world geography teacher at Ash Sixth Grade in Plainview after receiving her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies in April 2006.

But not too long ago, Hancock might have never imagined that dream be a reality. Raised in Plainview, single mom Sandee worked for an area gin, marketing grain and cotton. The long hours and stress began to take their toll, and Hancock realized soon she had to make a change.

“I always knew I wanted to work with kids. I had been a PE aide years before and had so much fun,” she recalled. “I decided I had to do something different with my life because I just wasn’t happy.”

She moved to Lockney and began commuting to her job at the gin and was enrolled full-time at Wayland, completing homework at the office when work slowed down. Finally, a job opened up in the University Bookstore, and she was able to work on campus and cut out the job commute. During the summer, she worked in the fields to make ends meet.

The juggling act was rough, but Hancock said keeping her end goal in sight made it possible. Along the way, she overcame several misconceptions.

“I knew teaching was the right route for me. I knew exactly what I wanted to do but didn’t think I could do college work; I wasn’t sure I could make the grades,” she said. “I also didn’t think I could afford school, and I thought I might not be accepted by the younger students. But I fit right in with these kids; nobody ever treated me differently.”

Hancock stresses that the Wayland environment aided in her success.

“I probably wouldn’t have been able to do it at any other school,” she said. “There’s something about the people and the personal touch at Wayland. I knew I could go talk to my professors, and they were so supportive.”

Hancock knows she’s in her element now, with a chance to impact the lives of young people at a very impressionable age. With memories of her own school experience not far from her mind, she focuses on encouraging her charges.

“It’s important for every student to believe they can do anything they want to do. A lot come in here without any confidence, and they leave my room thinking they are the best. I want them to become excellent citizens here,” she said. “This is where I belong. It’ll be a long time before I retire. I just enjoy it so much.”