Saving students about to fall through the educational cracks is a special talent for The
Charlotte Post Foundation’s educator of the year.
For those students, Sharon Anderson, English teacher at Midwood High School, makes a promise.
“I’m going to drag you across the line of success, regardless if you want to go,” she tells them.
living lesson for her students, Anderson is battling breast cancer for the second time. Her biggest goal for summer 2009 is
to be healthy enough to teach this fall.
“I tell them we have one life, one chance and one moment,”
she said. “That’s all you have. Stay in the present.”
Anderson, who lives in Gastonia with her husband
Brian, will be honored on September 19 as the teacher of the year at the “Post Best” banquet, to be held at the
Hilton Garden Inn Charlotte Uptown.
“Each year we believe we’ve found a teacher who exceeds our expectations,”
said Gerald Johnson, publisher of The Charlotte Post. “That is certainly the case with Sharon Anderson. Her positive
influence on students is remarkable.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System operates Midwood as a 9th grade
transitional school that focuses on building character and achieving academic success by educating the whole child. It accepts
students who, either by age or by academic expectations, are not ready to attend a traditional high school.
was a finalist for CMS teacher of the year. She lost, but also won, she said, because her candidacy allowed her a platform
to tell people that Midwood’s students don’t have behavior problems. Rather, their grades suffer usually because
of low self-esteem.
With an enrollment of about 200, Midwood class sizes rarely are larger than 10. When students
complete 9th grade at Midwood, they move back into a traditional high school for 10th grade.
The vast majority succeeds,
but Anderson said the hardest part of what she does is letting them go. “I’m addicted to students,” she
A 15-year classroom veteran, Anderson just completed her second year at Midwood. She’s taught in
CMS for five years.
Many of those she teaches were academic standouts in elementary school, but their grades suffered
in middle school. Most lack study skills and have lost confidence, she said, and are afraid of failure. Often, they experience
home life problems related to financial issues or absentee parents.
An example is the class clown who doesn’t
want to acknowledge his intelligence, she said.
“We teach them it’s OK to fail, but it’s not OK
to remain a failure,” Anderson said. She reminds them that basketball superstar Michael Jordan acknowledges his fame
for spectacular shooting, but reminds people that he missed basket attempts thousands upon thousands of times.
principal Sheila Ijames called Anderson “determined, consistent and transparent,” and added that she challenges
her students not only in their education, but in life.
Anderson said she doesn’t allow students to use excuses
as a crutch.
When a coed who told her she couldn’t complete her homework because her family had its electricity
turned off, Anderson still graded her zero. “The sun was shining,” Anderson told her. “You live close to
the library. You could have gone to your aunt’s house.
“She didn’t like it at first,” Anderson
said. “But at the end of the year, she had a 3.3 grade point average.”
A native of Columbia, SC, Anderson
wanted to study theater at Hampton University, but her mother balked at the idea. Her suitemate convinced her to major in
education, telling her she could act in the classroom.
It worked, as Anderson taught in 7th and 8th grades in Columbia
and then New York City. To be closer to her family, she and her husband moved to Charlotte when breast cancer flared the first
For all women, Anderson pleads that they get breast cancer screening regularly.
Now 39, Anderson
said she shares with her students what she believes: “Yesterday is yesterday and tomorrow will take care of itself.
Live and breathe each moment and appreciate your life for what it is.”