Adam Saunderson knew early on what his life’s work would be.
A teacher in the Frankfort Independent Schools system for 20 years, Saunderson was named a Central Kentucky Educational Cooperative 2020 Special Educator of the Year.
Saunderson teaches special education at Second Street School and is the special education department head for the district.
“My first experience with special education was tutoring students at my high school in England,” he said. “At that point I knew I wanted to go into teaching but wasn’t sure which particular field was for me. Working with those students and seeing the impact it had helped me decide on special education, and I’m very glad I did.”
Saunderson has spent his entire career with FIS, and he saw the system’s strong points stand out during non-traditional instruction (NTI) when schools were closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was definitely a challenge and a learning process, and something that neither the staff nor students at Second Street had experienced before,” he said about NTI.
“However, everybody rose to the challenge and did a tremendous job. Cafeteria workers, bus drivers, instructional aides delivering meals to our families, custodians working hard to renovate and keep facilities clean and in working order, teachers planning lessons, talking with families, and meeting students online every day, administrators working constantly to make sure everyone’s needs were met in the best way possible, and of course our students with their amazing ability to adapt to the situation.
“Frankfort Independent has always been a family, and it’s in times like these that the family really comes together.”
Members of Saunderson’s FIS family celebrated his accomplishment.
“We are so excited you are receiving this award and you are so deserving of it,” FIS Superintendent Houston Barber said. “We know you are a champion for children and are so proud of you.”
“You are an advocate for our kids all the way through — kindergarten to eighth grade. You make wonderful changes happen for kids and our staff and we are lucky to have you,” said Sam Sams, principal at Second Street School.
In addition to teaching, Saunderson has coached soccer in the school district for 20 years, and he’s currently the head coach of the middle school girls soccer team.
Saunderson’s interaction with students is one of the favorite parts of his job.
“The most rewarding aspects of my job always involve the students; it’s those moments when you see a student succeed with something they may have been struggling with for a while, or watching the accomplishments of an autistic child as they gain new skills and independence,” he said. “Overall I’d say the most rewarding thing is just getting to know and work with all of the students.
“People often talk about the difference a teacher can make in a student’s life, but I think it goes both ways — students have a tremendous impact on the lives of teachers and leave an indelible mark on all teachers who are fortunate enough to work with them.”