English Instructor Scott Sandler chosen 2020 Full Time Faculty of the Yearby Jan Janes on Jul 12, 2020
Scott Sandler, full time faculty, and Tiffany Palsgrove, adjunct faculty, both from the English department, were voted by their peers as Gavilan College Faculty of the Year 2020.
This article profiles Scott Sandler’s work, along
with some of the comments included in his nomination.
“Scott is a true hero. He volunteers for any job, no matter how difficult, both in our department and across campus. Everything Scott does for Gavilan, he does with dedication, integrity and heart.”
“To me, there’s no one faculty of the year,” Sandler said. “Anyone could have been.”
Reflecting on the nomination and the results of the faculty vote, Sandler extolled everyone else who had been nominated. “Leah Halper, the gift of her ability to see the big picture and do all the planning around service learning and professional learning,” he said. “Jane Maringer, her work and advocacy on behalf of the AEC students and program and mentoring she provides for others in curriculum. Darlene Del Carmen, who advocates on behalf of student athletes to create a strong support system to help them succeed.”
“I was very proud to see Tiffany Palsgrove on that list,” Sandler said. “She has done amazing work with Guided Pathways and AB 705 curriculum work.”
Sandler started teaching at Gavilan College, and simultaneously at Cabrillo College and Hartnell College, in 2002. He received tenure at Gavilan in 2006. He also taught at Los Angeles valley colleges after earning his BA in English from CSU Northridge. His attraction to the South led him to pursue an MA in English at University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, near Biloxi.
“Gavilan’s English department really values their adjunct faculty. We make an effort to create a safe and inclusive department, where everyone can speak out, and where all perspectives are valued.” He begins his second two-year term as co-chair of the English department this fall.
He is also co-chair of the department chairs. “There are so many things that impact us all and need to be discussed in community,” said Sandler.
“We don’t work well when we are siloed,” he said. “Through the department chairs meeting, we work interdependently to address issues that impact our departments and students.”
Sandler learned there was a need for an Academic Senate at-large faculty representative last year, indicated his interest and was appointed. “So much is happening at Academic Senate that impacts the whole college,” said Sandler. “I communicate out what is happening and work to make sure that everyone has a voice, even if they aren’t in the room.”
“Many of Scott’s students are Puente students, and he goes the extra mile to create meaningful relationships and a positive learning environment. His weekends are just as much filled with Puente as his own son’s activities – his heart is big enough to have room for both.”
“The relationships that you build with students are foundational to deep learning,” said Sandler. “Relationships are primary to the Puente Program.”
With a 32-year history at Gavilan, the Puente Program recruits and supports educationally underserved students who plan to transfer and earn degrees at four-year colleges and universities. Weekly conferences and college visits are integral to the curriculum.
“I love the role of mentors in our Puente Program,” said Sandler. “It is important for students to have someone in their support team who isn’t grading the student in any way. The dynamic is completely different.”
“In Puente, I can have a relationship and really see that student,” he said. “I get to know them better than my other students. It is a really humanistic approach to teaching.”
Puente students develop solid peer relationships, hold each other accountable and support each other. Their end of year celebration includes parents, siblings and mentors.
“You can see the pride they have for one another, and the appreciation the students have of their mentors,” said Sandler. “With parents and siblings in the room, you’re not making an impact on one student, but whole families."
“There is so much to be proud of through that program,” he said. “Retention rates are strong, and at least 90% of the students transfer to a four year school.”
“He asks Kyle and Jessica and the rest of us to play the ukulele with him, fostering connection and happiness to diffuse our stress.”
Sandler’s love of music started early. An early family vacation added a love of the South.
“When we were kids, Mom got us on a Greyhound bus,” he said. “She said ‘Pick a city, we’re going there.’”
Every kid’s voice was heard. His younger brother chose Houston, because he liked the Astros. Sandler picked New Orleans.
“Since I was 10 I have loved jazz music. I had just heard of Bourbon Street and wanted to go there,” said Sandler. “I wanted to taste Cherries Jubilee at the Court of Two Sisters and listen to some jazz.”
“I love Southern writers – William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor,” he said. “I was writing short stories, creative writing and poetry.” One of his professors was Frederick Barthelme, former Director of The Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi.
“Scott also teaches children at a Hebrew school and sings like an angel in his synagogue choir.”
“I teach Hebrew to second graders at Temple Beth El,” said Sandler. “And I teach seventh graders a class in tolerance.” He has invited Japanese internment camp survivor Mas Hashimoto, Holocaust survivors Gitta Ryle and Rosemary Schindler, and Oscar Schindler’s niece to speak to the older students.
“I find it enriching to work with those kids.”
“Humanism is the overriding theme of these descriptions. Scott embodies humanism so fully.”
“I am endlessly grateful to be part of a department that puts so much thought, sensitivity and time into how we want to be together in community,” said Sandler. He noted, specifically, how the department created a thoughtful response to AB 705.
“I have also learned so much about being a department chair working alongside my co-chair, Christina Salvin,” he said, “Watching her tireless advocacy on behalf of the English department has been inspiring.”
Sandler has worked with California Community Colleges’ Success Network (3CSN) and Habits of Mind since 2012.
“Much of the work we developed at Gavilan through Habits of Mind is being shared across the state,” he said.
He has attended and presented at workshops, tutor expos, Strengthening Student Success conferences and the Adult and Career Education Consortia at Gavilan. He collaborates with instructors from Fullerton College and West LA College on Growth Mindset.
During the summer he participated in 3CSN’s Wayfinding Online series, sharing his work on co-creating rubrics with students.
“I have adopted Lauren Servais’ phrase ‘co-wayfinders,’” he said. “During this time of shelter in place and remote learning, faculty, staff, and students are all figuring this out together. It humanizes the way we communicate with one another.”