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West Orange Times & Observer Wednesday, Sep. 14, 2022 1 week ago

Observer School Zone Influencer of the Week: SaraBeth Vanemon of Windermere Prep

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Ms. Vandemon was nominated by a group of students who said she made their sophomore year “better than anyone could have imagined.”
by: Amy Quesinberry Community Editor

SaraBeth Vanemon teaches English (sophomore honors and IB English A: Language and Literature) and is the department chair at Windermere Preparatory School. She was nominated by a group of students who said Vanemon made their sophomore year “better than anyone could have imagined.” She also is the sponsor for the Class of 2024. In 2018, when she was teaching in Osceola County, she earned the High Impact Teacher Award from the Florida Department of Education.

 

What brought you to your school?

A great friend and former colleague from Celebration High School, Derek Neveu, started working at WPS the year prior to my arrival. He was instrumental in my decision to apply and interview for a position. Mr. Neveu emphasized the safe and creative environment students have at WPS. After seeing the campus and how happy the students were, it was a relatively easy decision to join the staff at WPS.

 

What do you love most about your school?

Every year, the high school students at Windermere Prep participate in Unity Day. It is my favorite day of school! Each grade level goes on a field trip; the goal is to build relationships with peers in their graduating class while having fun. This year, I was honored to be part of the senior class trip to Jetty Beach Park and Pier. Watching the seniors play games, jump in the water and inhale pizza all while bonding with their classmates was a joy. One of the best parts of WPS is the emphasis put on the importance of relationships because the teachers and leaders understand that learning doesn’t happen to its fullest potential without team building.

 

What is your motivation?

I had a professor in grad school at UCF say “kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” My motivation as a teacher is to make sure every student in my class feels safe; I believe that only when they know they are in a safe and comforting learning environment can they truly experience the most growth. Creating that environment is what motivates me.

 

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is when students realize they can do something they never thought they could do — whether that is specific to my class or more of a personal goal, I love hearing students describe their successes. When they realize they can achieve one goal, it becomes easier to have them realize they can achieve success.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In the summer, I travel extensively. I love seeing new places and experiencing new cultures. This past summer, I spent two weeks in Sicily. When I arrived back in the states, this was followed by a road trip with three other friends through eight states and Washington, D.C.

 

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?

I was very fortunate to have many incredible teachers that impacted my life. Mrs. Ward, my choral director, was at the top of that list. She encouraged all her students, regardless of his/her musical prowess. That emotional encouragement is why everyone returned year after year to her class.

 

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? Why?

I wanted to be an opera singer. My bachelor’s degree is in vocal performance, and my goal was to travel the world and sing. I swore I would never be a teacher (yes, I used the word never). On my first day of graduate school, my professor started class by saying “teaching is a performing art,” and that was when everything came together for me.

 

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

Children’s book: Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrations by Brian Selznick. I love this book because it beautifully describes a historical event including two fierce women that wanted an adventure–even if they were wearing evening gowns. Amelia Earhart took Eleanor Roosevelt for a short flight around DC in 1933 after both of them left a dinner at the White House. The illustrations are wonderful. I think historical children’s books are great because kids learn a great moral while also learning about the world around them.

Favorite of all time: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. This has been my favorite book since I was first introduced to it by Mrs. Lamont, one of my high school English teachers. Elizabeth Bennet’s initial judgments about Darcy are why it is my favorite.

 

What are your hobbies?

I love to read while at the beach. I’m a huge Phillies baseball fan and Steelers football fan.

 

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

Due to my love of travel, I would enjoy being able to fly. This would eliminate TSA precheck and global re-entry fees every few years!

 

If you could only listen to three bands or artists for the rest of your life, what would they be and why?

• Celine Dion: I’m a sucker for a power ballad. My fondness for this diva has actually become somewhat of a joke amongst my colleagues. Right before Covid quarantine in 2020, I had floor seats to see this living legacy in Tampa — great concert!

• AC/DC: Musically, they aren’t a complex band. However, I love listening to the energy the band brings to each song. I have seen them several times in concert and enjoyed it each time.

• Mumford and Sons. These musicians combine Irish folk with modern lyrics. Most of the music is soothing but powerful. I particularly enjoy the band's first two albums.

 

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Thanksgiving. I love cooking the meal and having all of my family and friends join me. There is something almost magical about waking up early to stuff and cook the turkey. I have hosted Thanksgiving for 15 years — and people keep coming back.

 

Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?

Lindsey Styers was my best friend in school. We met in a dance class at the age of 3. When we started school, we were inseparable. We played basketball together and were in the marching band. Even though it is sporadic, we keep in touch. We live 1,000 miles away from each other but I can still see pictures of her growing family and message her when needed.

 

What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?

I went to Pennsylvania Music Educators Association State choir. Along with many choir honors, I was in my senior musical as the lead in Roger and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella.” I also played tennis and basketball.

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Amy Quesinberry is the community editor of the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She was born and raised in Winter Garden, grew up reading the community newspaper and has been employed there as a writer, photographer and editor since 1990....

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