#1StudentNWI: Developing personal skills with Highland High School teacher Sandra Malagon

#1StudentNWI: Developing personal skills with Highland High School teacher Sandra Malagon

High school is a time that teaches you about many things beyond just content related to core classes, and Highland High School teacher Sandra Malagon is a true testament to that. 

Malagon, who teaches Intro to Fashion as well as Preparing for College and Careers, gives students knowledge that expands beyond their typical math and English education. Having a class that teaches students about the workforce gives them a head start on skills and knowledge that they will need as adults.

“Many of my students have had to get a job to help with family finances,” Malagon said. “The content taught in my class helps them with employability skills.”

With the addition of the COVID-19 pandemic, young adults must now deal with being students and prospective members of the workforce, so having this knowledge is more important than ever.

“COVID-19 has changed how we look at certain industries that were previously overlooked,” Malagon said. “Introducing students to these careers might lead students to choose a career path that they may have never considered.”

Not only has the pandemic affected the professional lives of students, but their personal lives have also been affected.

“COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the complex issues facing teens. It has made me more aware of how important it is to reach out, communicate, and develop relationships with all of my students.”

This especially resonates with Malagon, who values her relationship with her students.

“My students are the number one reason I have stayed in this career for as long as I have. Developing relationships with them this year has been challenging. It has been especially difficult with my virtual learners since we have less opportunities to connect.”

Malagon also knows firsthand that having influential teachers can play a large role when deciding a career path.

“I was extremely fortunate to have four wonderful teachers that inspired me to pursue Education as a career,” she said.

Although students have seen the way that schools have changed dramatically in the past year, it has affected teachers just as much.

“The most challenging part has been the constant changes,” Malagon said. “Just when I started feeling comfortable doing all virtual learning we switched to hybrid. Adapting my curriculum and trying to meet the needs of all my students has been extremely challenging.”

During these tough times, Malagon, who has a Bachelor of Science in Consumer and Family Science Education from Purdue University and a Master of Science in Education from Purdue University Northwest, is sure to remember why she got into education in the first place.

“I always knew I wanted to have a career where I would have the opportunity to help children. Teaching seemed like the best career path for me.”

Just like how her students have been adapting and growing in the last year, the challenges presented by COVID-19 have helped Malagon grow in areas she was not always so strong in.

“It has taught me how important it is to ask for help,” she said. “I have always been very independent and have trouble asking for help. However, teaching during this pandemic has taught me that collaborating with my coworkers and asking for help were necessary to stay afloat.” 

Although we are now a year into the pandemic, it’s still important to take care of yourself.

“Take things one day at a time. Try to break up bigger projects into smaller, more achievable tasks. This will make things less overwhelming and easier to achieve.”

Regardless of when the pandemic ends, Malagon has important general advice that her students can practice for the rest of their lives.

“Be kind to everyone. You have no clue what mountain they are trying to climb.”