By Dauna Ditson
After a 34-year career in education, Jane Thurgood Sagal only retired for a year. When a friend, Sandra Finney, asked her to coauthor a book for teachers, Ms. Thurgood Sagal was eager to get back to work and share what she had learned over the course of her career.
Ms. Thurgood Sagal spent 11 years as a teacher and two years as a principal before transferring to Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Education, where she worked for two decades. After she retired, she moved to Radium Hot Springs in 2012.
Reflecting on her days as a teacher, Ms. Thurgood Sagal told the Pioneer she had always felt lucky because she knew how to manage her stress as it arose and had a great deal of confidence in herself, even early in her career.
In coauthoring The Way of the Teacher: A Path for Personal Growth and Professional Fulfillment with Ms. Finney, Ms. Thurgood Sagal wanted to share the resources she had found useful in the classroom. She said writing the book was an opportunity, “to reflect on what had helped me and therefore what others might find to be helpful as well.”
On the whole, she said, “(the book) is really about opening to the teaching life with a wise heart.”
Her hopes are that the book will help teachers become more self-aware, more creative, more understanding of others and more compassionate to themselves and others. She also hopes that the book will encourage teachers to investigate their belief systems as they relate to themselves personally and to their roles in the classroom.
“When we decided to write this book, we were nearing the end of long careers in education – ones that provided us with many perspectives on what it means to be a teacher and what kinds of teachers we most wanted to be,” Ms. Thurgood Sagal wrote in a follow-up email. “The teachers we wanted for children and teenagers were ones with an authentic presence, joy in helping students learn, and a passion for learning themselves. Experience taught us that who teachers are on the inside – the personal qualities they bring to the classroom – make the most difference in fostering the academic and personal growth of their students.”
Tragically, one of Ms. Thurgood Sagal’s sons died while she was working on the book. She said she could feel his spirit with her and that he improved her work. “He was helping me write more from the heart,” she said.
That lesson – to live and work wholeheartedly – is the central message of her book, and possibly of her life.
Ms. Thurgood Sagal plans to start on her next writing project, an autobiographical novel, this year.