Some people love their job, but not everyone brings persistence and dedication every day like Sandra Parsons.
For Parsons, improving education outcomes for children isn’t just an item on her to-do list, it has been a lifelong passion she continues to work toward every day.
This year, Parsons was named Educator of the Year by the Stone County Economic Development Partnership.
“I’m very grateful,” Parsons said. “It was not a goal of mine (to receive an award) it just happened.”
The SCEDP award for educator of the year goes to someone in education who has shown “making innovative strides in creating an environment where children are eager to learn.”
Previous recipients have been Dr. Mary Graham of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and Stone Stone County Superintendent Inita Owen.
Any teacher in Kindergarten-12 or college may be nominated and Parsons has an expansive career in both.
Originally from Collins, Parsons graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in education. She earned her master’s from William Carey University. Prior to joining the Stone County education system, she taught at Presbyterian Christian School in Hattiesburg, Pearl River Community College and Jones County Junior College. she also served as a student-teacher coordinator at USM.
Parsons took a job teaching with Stone County in 1984 where she successfully inspired young students and encouraged them to love learning.
She then became assistant principal at Perkinston Elementary and was later named the principal at Perkinston Elementary. Under her leadership, the school achieved an A-rating.
Four years ago, she joined the Stone County Central Office in an administrative capacity as the Testing and Accreditation Director.
Although she no longer teaches in the classroom, Parsons plays a vital, modern role in K-12 education.
She spends her days constantly analyzing data, looking over diagnostic scores and reviewing standards, all while looking for weaknesses and strengths in the classrooms.
“It’s all about data,” Parsons said. “I enjoy it—there are challenges.”
Since taking on this role, the Stone County School District is an A-Rated school district for the first time. Overall, Stone County’s district ranked 13th out of the state’s 145 districts.
The SCEDP nomination committee said, “Parsons played a vital role in this accomplishment by not only analyzing student data and increasing the rigor of instruction but also by teaching administrators and teachers how to utilize this data and implement strategies to the benefit of our students. It is truly a unique type of person who enjoys and thrives on delving deep into the data and Mrs. Parsons IS one of those people. Her passion and dedication to excellence continue to benefit the students of Stone County daily.”
The award was designed to support and recognize the economic contributions educators provide.
SCEDP Executive Director Betsy Rowell said education is very high on the list of priorities considered by industrial prospects.
“It is important to us to keep a close relationship with the local district as we work through job creation. The SCEDP has worked closely with the Stone County School District to improve the opportunities provided to students,” Rowell said. “They are a vital partner in all we do with workforce development, arts programming, and so much more.”
Yet excelling at her desk job doesn’t mean Parsons has stopped thinking about students and their futures.
“I desperately miss the children, that one-on-one time,” she said.
She knows she is contributing in a different way, but she misses getting to know students and helping them learn.
Throughout her nearly 40 years in education, Parsons has always strived to foster a sense of independence and confidence in students.
“I loved my children; they were like my children. I just wanted to be there and listen to them,” Parsons said. “I truly wanted them to learn.”
For her work, Parsons received a one-of-a-kind art piece.
For Parsons, the award was a surprise. She said she is very grateful to be recognized. Yet it has been the years of helping students discover a love of learning that has been her true reward in the past four decades.
She struggled to put into words what her students have meant to her.
“There is no way to pay for the work, the hours, the prayers, and the efforts teachers put in,” Parsons says. “(Being an educator) is a calling. It is a gift that God gives.”