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The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

New teaching assistant, Sara Spaanenburg, joins the WA Staff

Sofia Gutierrez
Sara Spaanenburg in the REACH classroom.

The transition from a school with only fifteen kids, to WA, a school with over 2000 kids is a huge change for one of WA’s new teaching assistants. Sara Spaanenburg, who moved from Sweden eight years ago is still adjusting to the different environment, and is excited to figure out all the different aspects of WA.

Q: What is your position here at WA?

A: I’m a [teaching assistant] right now in the REACH (Reach Educational ACHievement) classroom.

Q: What influenced you to become a teaching assistant and what’s your favorite part about it?

A: This is my third year [as a teaching assistant], and my first here at Westford Academy and I’ve always liked working with kids. I worked with younger kids before I came here and just wanted to switch it up from what I’ve done previously, and I enjoy it a lot. 

Q: Is it more difficult working with teenagers versus little kids? 

A: I shouldn’t say [it is] easier but I like the change.

Q: What brought you to Westford and more specifically Westford Academy? Have you always wanted to work with high school students? Was that always something that you saw yourself doing?

A: No, when I went into assistant teaching, I  thought I was going to work with little kids, but I live in Westford and my kids are in the Westford school system. So I was hoping to be closer to home. This position just kind of popped up.

Q: How have you adjusted to WA from where you worked before? Is it different or better? How would you describe it?

A: It’s very different. I worked at a very small private school before with only fifteen kids. So I’ve multiplied students by a lot. Obviously, I don’t work with all of you guys, but it’s very different. The block schedule is very tricky to me. It’s been an adjustment but it’s been a good one.

Q: Do you like that you’re working with the REACH students? 

A: I do. I really do. It’s a lot of fun. And I like being down here in this little community. It’s a great place to be. Miss Pardi helped me at first and then Miss Elliot. Some other TA’s were super helpful as well. 

Q: Do you think this job, specifically the REACH program, is a lot different from your previous job or do you see some similarities?

A: There’s similarities for sure. I have a background in physical therapy, where I’ve worked with a lot of other kinds of disabilities. Yeah, so it’s, it’s similar to what I did before. 

Q: Are there any important people in your life that have supported you in your career that you think have pushed you to become a teacher and assistant anything like that?

A: My mom has worked in Special Ed. her whole career. So that’s where I learned about it. My sister is a Special Ed. teacher as well. So it kinda runs in the family.

Q: Do you have different subjects that you specialize in?

A: No, not really. I used to help out teaching science at my old school. I used to love biology and chemistry.

Q: Are there any subjects that you would like to teach that you haven’t had the opportunity to?

A: If I wasn’t a Special Ed. teacher, I probably would do biology. Just because it’s fun.

Q: What are some things that you do to balance your home life and your work life?

A: I don’t know. I recruit my husband a lot. A lot of helping out with the kids obviously. Because [high school] starts a lot earlier than the elementary does. My kids are still in elementary school. And then I hang with my dog if I’m not with my kids, which I think is good.

Q: What kind of dog is she and what is her name?

A: She’s a mixed beagle pointer. Her name is Phoebe. 

Q: What types of challenges have you had to face, while starting at WA and all the different types of students?

A: It’s been really good. I’ve had a lot of support, maybe more so than other TA’s have had because I have this community. There haven’t been a lot of challenges, maybe all the bouncing around recently but I know we’re low on a couple of TA’s. I’m happy to help wherever I’m needed.

Q: Where have you moved around in the building since you’ve started here? Has it just been in the REACH program or have you gotten to go anywhere else?

A: So I first started in Ms. Pardi’s room, which is the life skills classroom. And then I’ve also helped in a one to one with a student from there as well. I liked that too, because that made it so that I could see a lot of the General Ed. classes as well. 

Q: What’s one piece of advice you would give to people who are interested in being a teaching assistant?

A: I‘d say, it’s a lot of fun. You have to be flexible. You just have to go with the flow of the day. It’s not really a fixed position, I guess. Just go with the flow. Flexible, be flexible.

Q: Do you mind talking about your previous job a bit more?

A: It’s very different. That was probably my biggest concern when I started here. And of course, now I’m kind of back to the smaller room, but it was a small private school over in Groton and there were fifteen kids from K-5 to five mixed ages.

Q: What was the name of the school?

A: It’s called the Groton Farm School. And I loved it there. Just kind of wanted to be on the same schedule as my kids.

Q: Was it useful to share a schedule with your kids?

A: For a lot of moms it probably is. Especially since I was a physical therapist, then I was a stay at home mom and then going into TA is like an easy little transfer to working again because you’re on the same schedule as the kids

Q: Is there anything that we didn’t ask you that you want to share? Any fun facts about yourself that you want people to know?

A: I was born and raised in Sweden. So I’ve only been here eight years. 

Q: Would you like to share more about the process of moving to the U.S. and adapting to its customs?

A: It’s been sort of easy because my husband’s American. He’s from the sort of general area here. My kids, they weren’t born here either. So we will sort of have to adjust. It’s getting easier and easier. And now I am an American citizen.

Q: Did you just recently go through your citizenship? 

A: Yeah, two years ago. Now that I have gone through with it, it’s a good feeling. It felt like being back in school again.

Q: Did you live anywhere before Westford after you moved from Sweden? Have you stayed in Massachusetts or been anywhere else?

A: Just in Massachusetts. I was in Burlington first and then I’ve been in Westford for probably five or six years.

Q: Was Burlington different from Westford? 

A: I think that it’s kind of more urban. But not too different. Burlington is also kind of quaint. This might be a bit bigger. Westford is pretty vast. 

Q: There’s almost 2000 students here. Going from fifteen to like over 2000 students must have been a crazy transition. Has it been overwhelming or do you think you’re handling it? 

A: I think when the bell rings, I get super overwhelmed as everyone swarms the halls. But I’m getting used to it and everyone’s nice.

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About the Contributors
Sofia Gutierrez
Sofia Gutierrez, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Sofia Gutierrez and I'm a sophomore at Westford Academy this year. It’s my first year working on the Ghostwriter as a staff writer and I’m thrilled to be a part of the team. I enjoy reading and writing, which is why I took an interest in journalism. I also enjoy art, listening to music, and volleyball. I'm excited to learn about the fundamentals of journalism and how to properly use them! 
Carissa Schutt
Carissa Schutt, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Carissa Schutt and I am a junior at WA. This is my first year taking journalism and being a staff writer for the Ghostwriter. I’ve always loved playing sports, I play volleyball, and I’m on a dance team. I’ve been dancing since age 2 because I have so much fun working with other people and creating something that others will love. When I'm not playing sports, I'm listening to music, writing about things that inspire me, hanging out with my friends, and taking sunset pictures when I am able to. I am really excited to learn more about what journalism is all about and to be a part of a community who loves writing as much as I do!

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