Debbie Sands to retire this year

Helping students become “the best they can be”


Alex Goldbeck/Talon

Instructional Assistant Debbie Sands will retire from OPHS. She is moving to Nevada with her husband after leaving Oak Park.

After 17 years as an instructional assistant at Oak Park High School, Debby Sands will be retiring in 2019, at the end of this school year.

Sands helps students with various learning disabilities by working closely with them, reviewing the material covered in their classes, and providing further explanations in a one-on-one lesson.

“She’s able to break down the content so that students can understand it,” Special Education department chair Rebecca Custodio said. “She has that perfect balance of providing the background and foundation taught in the general education classrooms, then reteaching it in a way that her students can understand it.”

She attends classes alongside students and takes notes in order to personalize an instructional lesson that better fits each of these students’ way of learning. According to Sands, working with students at Oak Park High School has been a pleasurable experience throughout the years.

“The wonderful thing about this school is the community and family atmosphere,” Sands said. “I’ve enjoyed coming for the entire 17 years I’ve worked here. [OPHS is] very supportive, and everybody encourages each other, so it’s such a positive work environment.”

Sands says that she will miss both the staff and students the most when she leaves Oak Park to move to Nevada with her husband.

“It’s been so much fun working with the students,” Sands said. “Working in this department, you get to know the students more than any other teacher would. To see them grow and develop from their freshmen year to a confident and mature senior — it’s just a fascinating process to watch.”

Last year, Sands was recognized by the faculty with the Golden Eagle award, which is awarded to a staff member who overcame obstacles and is appreciated by the staff.

“She’s been really important to our program and our students for many, many years and has been very dedicated and skilled at helping our students be successful,” Principal Kevin Buchanan said.

In the classroom, Sands reaches out beyond her assigned students to assist other students who may have questions or need help with classwork.

“When [the students] are independently working on something, she walks with me — she helps everybody,” math teacher Lisa Bregar said. “[Sands] is one of the most selfless people there are.”