A veteran of North Springs Charter High School, Varda Sauer, teacher of the Mentorship program, and sponsor of the Jewish Culture Club, will be retiring at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.
Sauer has worked at North Springs for twenty four years, with a wide-ranging set of jobs. “I started off teaching night school,” said Sauer. “I was] teaching sociology and health education.”
Sauer instructed night school for several years in the late 1980s, took off from North Springs for five years and then returned in the mid-1990s. Up until 2004 when she started the Mentorship program, she worked many different jobs, including serving as head of the counseling office, working as head of the attendance office, and acting as discipline coordinator.
One day though, she had the idea for a student aide program. “I was working in the counseling office and I realized that it would be so helpful to have students help,” Sauer explained. We [staff] had a lot of work to do, and it would be really nice if there was more help. I had twelve students working with me.”
Sauer agreed with the then-principal, Vicki Ferguson, that before bringing her idea of Mentorship to the larger student population, she would have to spend a year in the attendance office. “The attendance office was a mess back then,” asserted Sauer, “I righted the ship.”
After her year in the attendance office, the principal followed through on their deal, and allowed Sauer to start the mentorship program. The program she envisioned would allow students to get internships and gain some practical experience.
“Early on, administration just let almost anybody into Mentorship,” commented Sauer. “Over time though, I have raised the bar to be in Mentorship. [Students should have] no discipline, no attendance issues, nothing like that. This year it is the highest bar.”
Mentorship has grown into one of North Springs’ largest student programs. Sauer has around 150 students, and many of those students perform a wide-range of different internships helping people both outside and within school. Sauer explained, “I tell students in the beginning of the year: I believe that Mentorship is one of the few opportunities in one’s life to truly ‘save lives.’”
Mentorship has become the favorite part of her time at North Springs, specifically the students. “My favorite part of working at North Springs, twenty-four years, has been my wonderful students,” said Sauer. “Some of them have become life-long friends, which I absolutely love.”
When asked about her favorite memory of her time at North Springs, Sauer seemed deep in thought. “My favorite memory has been setting up the unbelievable, amazing, wonderful internships that were hard to get,” she said. She mentioned the Northside Hospital internship program, as well as one that she was especially excited about, an internship with The Westin for a student with a passion for hospitality management.
Sauer commented on the changes that has occurred over her time at North Springs. “Well, the teachers have changed. Back when I got here, the words ‘teacher retention’ didn’t exist. Everyone stayed here for at least ten years. Now, teachers are leaving all the time. Also, the students. The students have gotten generally better over time. I like that.”
When news emerged on January 26th about Sauer’s impending departure, many were surprised and nervous for the future of the Mentorship program. “I don’t know how I’d operate without Mentorship,” remarked Carol Ciepluch, PR Liaison. Sauer was confident that the Mentorship program will live on next year, “Admin[istration] has promised me that Mentorship will be around next year,” she said.
Besides her involvement with Mentorship, Sauer is also well-known for her role as one of the founders and longest serving sponsor of the Jewish Culture Club, which she said has included over 1200 students during her involvement since the club was conceived in 2007. “I will continue to run the Jewish Culture Club as a volunteer,” assured Sauer.
Sauer said that her decision to retire was spurred by her family. She spoke fondly of her young grandchildren, and spoke about how she came to realize that opportunity she was missing by not attending her grandchildren’s school events.
Sauer explained, “Five times this year, my grandchildren asked me, ‘Grandma, are you coming to my chorus performance, are you coming to my play, are you coming to grandparents’ day?’ and on the fifth time this year I told my grandchildren, ‘that I can’t, I work all day.’ One of my grandchildren looked at me and said, ‘You never come to our stuff; when are you going to come?’ I said, ‘Next year, next year.”