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Failing forward: a theory of learning

Keynote speaker and Harvard graduate Ansel Sanders '09 is president and CEO of Public Education Partners in Greenville.

President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Education Partners Ansel Sanders ’09 gave senior education majors at Furman University last week a call to action. He encouraged them to look for the right-sized challenges and fail forward, embracing mistakes as the greatest way to learn.

Sanders was the guest speaker for the 2017 Teaching Banquet, hosted annually by Furman’s Education Department to recognize the efforts of both teacher candidates and their cooperating teachers during the 2016-2017 academic year. Approximately 75 people attended the event, held March 17 at the Watkins Room of the Trone Student Center.

This spring, a total of 33 teaching interns worked in classrooms in Greenville, Pickens, Spartanburg 1 and Spartanburg 6 school districts.

As they prepare to begin their teaching careers, Sanders encouraged graduating seniors to have a mindset of continual growth. “It is failure and struggle that can be converted into resilience, confidence, grit and hope…” he said.

Ansel Sanders

“When we show our students that we’re imperfect, it lets them know that their imperfections are OK too,” said Sanders. “They can mess up on a math problem, struggle to sound out hard words or lose their temper, and we’ll still care about them just as deeply.”

Sanders, who has 12 years of experience as an educator, joined PEP of Greenville in June 2015. He previously served as an eighth-grade English Language Arts teacher in Baltimore, Md., administrative assistant at Mauldin Middle School, program director at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering in Greenville; lead planner at Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, and director of partnerships at the Tennessee Achievement School District in Memphis, Tenn.

He holds a B.A. in English from Washington and Lee University, a M.A.T. from Johns Hopkins University, an Ed.S. in School Leadership (M.A.T.+30) from Furman University, and an Ed.L.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in Cambridge, Mass.

The banquet is a long-standing tradition in the Education Department, marking the end of the academic year.   Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost at Furman George Shields welcomed the group while Department Chairperson Nelly Hecker served as mistress of ceremonies.

Teacher candidates recognized included: Elementary: Caroline Brearley, Melina Bricker, Ellison Cleghorn, Sophia Denaro, Kristin Farrar, Maddy Gentry, Porter Grant, Caroline Holley, Candace Johnson, Kendall Korey, Grace Linton, Reilly Mahan, Chandler Massey, Jessica McDowell, Catherine McNeela, Ashley Megregian, Justin Paden, Kathryn Painter, Lindy Perry, PollyRose Philpot, Kathleen Reinhart, Katy Russell, Britt Viergever and Dorothy Walton; English: Emily Matthews; Music – Choral: Madi Earls and Jonathan Painter; Music – Instrumental: Alex Armock, Paul Haarala, Danielle Marshall, Emily Salgado and Erin Wilson; and Music – Strings: Jada Tate.