LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Sandy Whatman

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Russell Elementary School
School District: Missoula County Public Schools
City, State: Missoula, MT

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Sandy Whatman was nominated by Kelly Racela, the parent of a student.

"As I stood in the cold watching my son play extracurricular hockey, I saw a friendly wave in the distance. Mrs. Sandy Whatman had arrived at the rink after a long day of teaching at my son's elementary school," said Racela. "At the time, my son was a 3rd grade student at Russell Elementary in Missoula, MT. We had no way of knowing that the following year, my son would benefit and thrive under the nurturing leadership of Mrs. Sandy Whatman as his 4th grade teacher.  On this late, cold night, Mrs. Whatman was securing and building a trusting relationship with yet another Russell student."

"I know Mrs. Whatman for her intrinsically nurturing nature. As a parent in the building, I have witnessed Mrs. Whatman crawling on the floor on her hands and knees to go in to a safe 'break space' to further understand how she can support a student having a difficult day," said Racela. "Students know Mrs. Whatman to be fair and understanding. Parents know Mrs. Whatman as the same: safe, sensitive, and a confidential professional who seems to know their children just as well, if not better than some parents know their own."

In the community, Mrs. Whatman hand-delivered a holiday meal to a family that otherwise may have gone without. On a separate occasion, she snuck a birthday gift into the backpack of a student who didn't need to wish anymore. As recent as the week before her nomination, Mrs. Whatman spearheaded a team effort for the Polar Plunge, raising over $800 for Special Olympics. On a regular basis, Mrs. Whatman mows the lawn of an aging neighbor, because as she mentioned..."I can do that for him."

"My son is now a 5th grade student at Russell School. During fourth grade, my son thrived! He knew that his school day was going to be filled with experiential learning, security, compassion and gratitude," said Racela. "Mrs. Whatman, a nationally certified educator, supported my son's love for learning. Not only is she an extraordinary educator, but also a human. On several occasions, I have mentioned to Mrs. Whatman that I feel strongly that she is a LifeChanger."



Comments (10)


Danielle Mizner Posted 6 months ago

I look forward to teaching with Sandy everyday! She's an amazing teacher that I have learned so much from over the past 5 years. Thank you for all that you do!

Kim Lederer Posted 7 months ago

Thank you for all you do for our Russell Bears!! You always have a smile on your face and friendly hello to share with our Russell family.

Emily Morelli Posted 7 months ago

Congratulations, Sandy! Your kind-heart and dedication to your students is so inspiring! You deserve all the recognition in the world!

Riley Warren Posted 7 months ago

I absolutely second every word! Mrs. Whatman was instrumental in the success of my son during some of the most trying times of his childhood. She is kind, compassionate, honest, nurturing, understanding, and just a wonderful, wonderful person.

Jenna Eby Posted 8 months ago

I am lucky enough to teach across the hall from Sandy at Russell Elementary, and lucky enough to have her as my mentor. She has a caring, nurturing nature and treats her students as her own. She is an amazing teacher and even more incredible human being. I'm grateful to not only call her a co-worker and mentor but a friend!

Danielle C Manning Posted 8 months ago

I have worked with Sandy with several of our most challenging students. She never gives up. She always gives it her all. She cares deeply and has impressive skills and abilities. And I have seen lasting and impactful connections truly change the lives of these students. Highly recommended.

Kelsie O'Connell Posted 9 months ago

Mrs. Whatman is such an amazing person and she contributes so much to our school. She is admired by students and staff for her kind heart and dedication. She always goes the extra mile for all of her students. She makes them feel understood, encouraged, cared for and celebrated. Her love and dedication for her career helps students strive both in and out of school. I am so thankful to be able to work with such a skilled and kind person. She always makes the day a bit brighter for everyone who gets to enjoy her company.

Sue C. Culin Posted 9 months ago

Sandy, I’m so very proud of you despite our distant connection! This is such a glowing recommendation! CONGRATULATIONS??

Jennifer Posted 9 months ago

I worked with Sandy years ago. She was a mentor in my beginning teaching days and I learned so much from her.

Kelly Racela Posted 9 months ago

So deserved. Knowing Sandy is lifechanging. She has changed our families life!