LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Sarah Combs

Position: ECSE Pre-K Teacher
School: Hollister Early Childhood Center
School District: Hollister R-V Schools
City, State: Hollister, MO

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Sarah Combs was nominated by her paraprofessional, Tonya Laird.

"How does a person come up with an illustration or a picture of someone you think so highly of and respect? I hesitate to even try," said Laird. "Actions of mercy and grace are displayed daily toward all the special education students within Miss Combs' care. She has a flare for teaching children coping skills, showing them what to do with their bodies or words when things aren't going their way." 

Miss Combs cheers her students on as they reach new goals, no matter how small or large. One of her children kept climbing on tables. After investigating why and understanding the importance of this new development, Miss Combs gave him more appropriate opportunities to climb. Today, this same child does not climb on tables anymore. Instead of shaming children for something they're learning and trying to figure out themselves, Miss Combs teaches students how to curb behaviors to appropriate places.

Because of Miss Combs' students having different abilities, she works like a triage educator, moving around the classroom, assessing and taking care of children with differing abilities, strengths and weaknesses with speed, accuracy and agility, all while remaining positive. At any time of the day, she may have a child with oppositional defiant tendencies pushing chairs, screaming, and refusing directions, while another child is repeating the same phrase over and over. Meanwhile, a child might need potty-training in the bathroom, while another child is crying and needs a hug because their parent dropped them off. In spite of all this, Miss Combs will have several children working in centers and learning the alphabet and their numbers.

Miss Combs communicates positively and provides good directions to the paraprofessional in the classroom. She doesn't ask her to do anything she would not do herself (with the exception of hanging the curtains up high). She keeps in contact with the speech facilitator to see what can be accommodated in the classroom to enhance learning. Miss Combs even touches base daily with the bus driver about the children from her class that ride the bus.

Within her classroom, the things that others don't see is her compassion as she cleans the face of a child arriving at school with a dirty or marked up face. Miss Combs has been instrumental in arranging several free professional haircuts for the children with parental permission. She has combed out many rat nests out of hair of children and has put bows in their hair. When she learned one of her students' families needed food, Miss Combs was able to send food home with the child and acquire additional services. Many times she will provide food, clothing, or shoes out of her own pocket or resources. She does not overstep her boundaries. She has open communication with parents. 

The children in her class feel so valued that as they grow and move on, they give her hugs in the hallway and say how much they miss her.  One student in an older grade who needs help with calming techniques comes to Miss Combs' class a couple of times a week carrying two rolls of paper taped together to trade out with another one. Miss Combs asks him about his day and talks to him for a couple minutes. She tells him how much she appreciates the delivery because it's just what she needed. They talk about basic school rules in casual conversation. Then, he carries different paper back to his classroom.

Miss Combs is one of the "go to" people in her school for positive discipline or behavior management. She can listen to a parent or co-worker's concern for a child, and she immediately brainstorms tips or plans to try. Miss Combs writes several IEPs each year. During professional development, Miss Combs facilitated learning with the district paraprofessionals encouraging them to set goals and achieve them.

Miss Combs is a wonderful part of her school's atmosphere. She leads her building's climate committee. She is always thinking of new ideas to make her school a wonderful place to be. Miss Combs is a great with communication and likes to make sure everyone is on the same page. When it comes to staff, she expresses appreciation to everyone from custodians to principals. She makes sure all staff know they are valued. She recently put together custodian appreciation baskets and visited a teacher in the hospital that was awaiting a diagnosis of her child. Miss Combs also put together an online shower for a coworker who is fostering to adopt four children.

"She continually places others ahead of herself," said Laird. "One thing she does do for herself is getting her nails professionally painted. When I see different children holding her hands on the playground or just starring at her nails, however, I think she paints her nails for the children, too."

Miss Combs has so many different levels of qualifications, including an administrator endorsement. She currently teaches in a Pre-K position in an ECSE room with over 15 children. Hollister Public Schools houses infants through grade 12. She has taught in the district for many years in different grade levels. She is very diversified in her experiences and accomplishments. Many new and veteran teachers go to her for guidance in their classrooms. Miss Combs has given up her lunch time to help a child or comfort a discontented baby. 

"As the paraprofessional in Miss Combs' classroom...she changes my life daily," said Laird. "More importantly, she changes students' lives daily. Her value is way beyond any words I could come up with."

Comments (54)

Brandi Ortega Posted over a year ago

I can't think of a more deserving person to receive this honor! I am proud to call Miss Combs a colleague and close friend. She is one of the hardest working, dedicated, compassionate, driven people that I know. Miss Combs sets her mind to a task or a problem and always delivers a solution that works for everyone involved. When I have a student in my class that I am struggling to reach, she is the very first person on my list to seek out for her advice and opinion. Miss Combs is always willingly to sit and listen to what the struggle is and offers a variety of suggestions and tools to help everyone feel successful. She isn't afraid to share her insight and perspective or ask the tricky questions. This makes Miss Combs an integral part of our school community and a member that can always be counted on to go the extra mile to help a student or teacher. Hollister ECC is so luck to her! I love you and am so proud of you, Sarah! ?? Thank you for ALL that you do for me and our school!

Laura Posted over a year ago

Sarah is the type of teacher who by just watching her you know she has a passion what she does and love for kids. I had the privilege of teaching along side her as a second grade teacher for a few years. In that time, I saw her patience for working with students who needed her extra attention. She was kind and calm with them, but most importantly they knew how much she cared for them. Now, I get to watch her with some of our youngest students. She continues to have that same calmness and patience for them, teaching them the skills they need to be successful. Sarah is an amazing teacher who truly inspires students and those around her. I am proud to know her and to have worked with her for so many years.

Gwendolyn J Stites Posted over a year ago

My Grandson, Christian loves Mrs. Combs.. Thank you for being a great teacher and a great friend to him.. <3

Richard White Posted over a year ago

Hooray for Sarah! We and the students are lucky to have such a caring teacher!

Katie C. Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs is a life changing teacher because she truly loves the students who are considered the “least of these”. Her students know they are loved by her, even when they present her with some challenging obstacles. Through love and a patient mindset most people never obtain, Sarah educates her students and encourages them through the mountains they face. Hollister would not be as great as it is without her! She is amazing!!!

Faith Manzo Posted over a year ago

Sarah is so kind and loving to her students!! She is very patient and gives her best effort to make a difference in her students lives. She is extremely selfless and uses her time to help others!

Sharmon Hagler Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an outstanding teacher with a love and passion for teaching and respects the importance of individuality of each student. As a former educator who worked with Sarah, I can not think of a teacher who deserve this award more than Sarah Combs!! She will be an excellent example of a teacher who changes the life of her students!!

Elaina Conner Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an amazing teacher! You can definitely tell she loves what she does. She’s always there to help and she has a heart of gold. She’s also a great friend and a good role model for younger adults. We need more people like Sarah in the world!!!!

Jasmine Posted over a year ago

Sarah is the type of teacher I want to be. She goes above and beyond for her students on a daily basis. She is an educator who puts her students first 100% of the time. As a colleague I know I can go to Sarah and she will help me in any way that she can. Sarah is the teacher that can reach even the toughest of students. She is truly changing lives everyday. I am thankful to be able to call her my friend and colleague.

Kaleena Porter Posted over a year ago

Sarah and I attended college together and grew to be close friends. Sarah is so passionate and I knew from the start she would be an amazing teacher. She puts care and compassion into everything decision she makes with her students in mind. Sarah and I do not teach in the same district but she has still been a great mentor to me. Her knowledge, passion, positive behavior experience is beyond her years and she is the best there is. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this award.

Amber Posted over a year ago

Ms. Combs has a joyful, kind, and capable manner that leaves you feeling comfortable and confident in the care and education of your child. She is quick to see and meet a need in a child’s life. Her skill and patience for every child’s unique needs is admirable. Our child has advanced so much in his own personality and friendships and educational goals. Ms. Combs was made for special education, and we are forever thankful for her talent and love for children.

Dawn Wallingford Posted over a year ago

You deserve this SO much!!! Congratulations Sarah!

Shannon Posted over a year ago

Sarah has always been a support for not only her students but teachers as well. I've seen many teachers come to her for advice and she is always there willing to lend a helping hand to anyone. Her love for students and co-workers is very evident. Sarah is a delight to work with.

Cassandra Posted over a year ago

Sarah is always so positive and joyful! I can always tell she has such a heart for people, especially her students. I always feel so encouraged when I am around her knowing that she will go above and beyond to help and care for those around her.

Jenny Hernandez Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs has a heart for students and always goes above and beyond to show her students she loves them and to ensure they grow in every respect. She embodies leadership by taking risks in her classroom, mentoring other teachers, and regularly collaborating with other professionals to ensure the best for her students. Hollister School District is a better place because of Sarah Combs!!

Jane Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an incredible person and educator. She has a heart for her students and the people around her. She strives to create a safe and loving learning environment and when she does this trickles out throughout our building. She works tirelessly to ensure that all her students have the tools that they need to be successful in and out of school. I am truly honored to be able to work with Sarah, she is truly a selfless person that puts others before herself. She deserves this award because she touches the lives of everyone she meets.

Joy Olson Posted over a year ago

Life-changer is a perfect adjective for Sarah. I know this to be true in my own life. I have had the pleasure of knowing Sarah since I was about nine years old and in that time Sarah has supported and encouraged me time and again. I now have the privilege to visit her classroom occasionally as a sub and see first hand the impact she has on her students lives. Just yesterday I was speaking to a parent about their fourth grader and I mentioned their preschooler. The parent then spent the next several minutes explaining how grateful she was that her child was in Miss Comb’s class and how Miss Combs had helped her child learn to love school this year. This conversation is not a rare occurrence. Daily, Sarah’s compassion for her students and willingness to love on them despite their current behavior is observed within her classroom. For these reasons, and so many more, I can think of no one more deserving than Sarah for this award.

Danielle Posted over a year ago

Lifechanger for many years. Miss Combs will always been known by my 22 year old daughter as "my school mom". Leading a group of incoming middle school kiddos (changes, preteens, stinky, loud, attitude, and trying to find thier way...) while she was a 5th grade teacher could not have been easy. We send our kids to school, sometimes just hoping for the best. Even those years ago, Miss Combs did it with grace, love, and a balance of disciplinarian yet trusted mentor.

JACKIE JONES Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs has been an influence to a lot of Students including My Daughter Shelby, who has since Graduated. Shelby has never forgot how loving and caring Miss Combs was when she was struggling and not wanting to go to school at all. Miss Combs recognized that and was right beside Shelby to even walk her into School when she didn't want to go. Miss Combs has such compassion for all Children, she even helped my Niece Brenna Brown who has a form of Autism, be able to be a Tigers Cheerleader in Jr High with other girls who would not have had the chance to. She is Amazing and I am not sure she will even know the impact she has had on Hollister Schools.

Courtney w Posted over a year ago

Ms.Combs made my son love school again. She saw what a bright and caring young man he is and helped him grow to be able to share it with others. Forever thankful for you as his teacher.

Marie Teaster Posted over a year ago

Sarah is my granddaughter’s teacher. She is very caring and loving with the children in her class. Lila says she loves Miss Combs. Thank you Sarah.

Michelle Sanders Posted over a year ago

Please allow me to give you a few details about this amazing woman, Miss Combs. I had taken my three children and fled from a very abusive relationship on the East Coast. Bringing them to Hollister and attempting to sync them back into Family and a normal routine. When I first brought Haidyn into the classroom she was very distraught and scared constantly looking behind her back,Worried and scared. I shared my concerns with Miss combs and told her that anything she needed to please let me know that we were all still adjusting. Over the School year we dealt with many night terrors, mental meltdowns and physical stress. Miss Combs connected us with an amazing therapist for all my children as well as comfort for myself and for Haidyn. I never once worried when I dropped her off after a long night of bad dreams I knew that she was in good hands. Miss Combs also helped us prepare Haidyn when I had to leave for court and giving Haidyn lots of comfort and coping skills when I had to be gone. I also was still recovering from stage III breast Cancer and Miss Combs would always love on Haidyn a little extra on the days I would have to go back for tests and check ups. We are forever grateful for Miss combs , Thanks to her our young Haidyn is a freshman in high school, a cheerleader, an honor student, and the most compassionate young woman that you could ever meet. I believe that God placed Miss Combs in our life at the right time for the right purpose. It is my prayer that you award this woman with the life changer of the year award because without her I do not think my daughter would be where she is today.

Becky Batteen Posted over a year ago

Sarah is tremendous with students. She is able to teach to all different levels while making the students feel like everyone else. She is kind, courteous, and loves her job. I would love to have her on my staff!!

Carol Tate Posted over a year ago

Sarah cares for and loves all her students . She is an inspiration to everyone at the school because she cares so much about helping every student grow. for the better every day in class . She truly loves and cares for everyone. Thank you Sarah!

RHONDA G GIBSON Posted over a year ago

I love that Miss Combs has a passion to help children with disabilities. I appreciate this quality so much, as I am the parent of a 21 year old daughter with Autism/Seizures/Behavioral Issues. It always means so much to a parent to have a teacher for their child that actually cares about bringing the child forward despite all of the obstacles/disabilities. I like that her heart is in it and not doing it just for a paycheck. Thank you Miss Combs for being a teacher who truly cares about making a positive difference in a child's life.

Kim Connell Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs loves kids and is passionate about finding ways to reach each individual student. It is hard to follow up on Mrs. Laird’s words as they are so spot on and eloquently written. I am positive there are a lot of teachers who deserve this award. However, if the committee could spend one day in Miss Comb’s classroom, they would absolutely see that Miss Combs is extremely deserving of this award.

Kaitlyn Posted over a year ago

I can only say good things about Miss Combs... she was so kind and understand from day one! I was nervous for my little guy to start preschool and especially 5 days a week. But she kept reassuring me that it will just take time and he will adjust. And he did! Not saying that tears weren't shed on both sides, but Miss Combs and Miss Tonya were always there to comfort my little one until he could calm down. I have seen him grow and talk with more confidence over the weeks since he's been there. I feel so fortunate that my son gets to have an exceptional teacher like Miss Combs!

Kezra Posted over a year ago

Sarah had a great impact on my child. She loved her unconditionally while making sure she learned the appropriate academics. I witnessed Sarah's genuine care and concern for all students. She loves students for who they are, even those who may have trouble finding their place in the classroom. Thank you Sarah for loving and cherishing all students!

Tammy Johnson Posted over a year ago

I had the pleasure of being a Para in Sara’s classroom for almost 2 years. She is the most caring compassionate person. I have never seen anyone be able to teach kids like she does. She just has the heart for children. No matter the situation and believe me we had some crazy ones she always knew exactly what to say or do to calm not only students but everyone in the class with her presence. In situations that would come up I would always think what would Sara do here. I no longer work with her but am blessed to get to call her my friend!

Nina Henson Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs is so good at loving kiddos that need understanding. She has a huge heart for helping those students see the best in themselves and reaching to do all they can. She is the patient teacher that will not give up. I have watched her coach an irrational student back to a rational state in a moment of complete chaos with the outcome being educational success for that student. This is a gift not all have, but Miss Combs certainly does. We are thankful to have her heart and expertise at Hollister.

Sandy Leech Posted over a year ago

Ms. Combs is an outstanding educator who truly cares for the children she works with. Her positive and can-do attitude make working with her a pleasure, and her kind heart and love for kids make her a favorite amongst our students. We are very lucky to have her with us in Hollister, and she would be an excellent choice for this award! Great job Sarah!

Traci Canote Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs is a refreshing balance of teacher and nurturer. She responds to children with empathy and respect. She is building their brains and gently guiding problem solving while caring for their physical and emotional needs. She balances the needs of her classroom while continually devoting her time to her school community as well. She is an exemplary teacher and role model for our young students and I'm proud to have her working with children in our school district.

Jeff Combs Posted over a year ago

I can only echo the statements of Tonya Laird in regard to the nomination of Sarah for Lifechanger of the Year, as I have witnessed first hand Miss Combs displays of Mercy and Grace with her students. I know this as I was on of Miss Combs paraprofessionals in the past. Her fundraiser to purchase Wobble seats for use in flexible seating; and this year's effort for playground equipment. Miss Combs is the schools "go to" person for positive discipline or behavior management due to her love and training. Her heart has always been for teaching--- going to our local college and being a Bonner student in our district; student teaching in our district; then obtaining a teaching position in our district, where Ms. LaIrd mentioned, she has taught for several grades. Miss Combs' heart for teaching and the love for her students is what makes Miss Combs an exceptional Lifechanger in both her students and co-workers, as i have witnessed this as both her para and her Father.

Sandy Humbyrd Posted over a year ago

I have known Sarah since she began teaching. She is passionate about teaching students! She is always thinking of ways to improve her craft and is a life-long learner. Sarah loves Hollister and the students she serves. She works with students of all abilities and is an advocate for each of them. Sarah would be a great teacher to receive this award.

Pam Storm Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an amazing woman! She uses love & humor, both in & out of the classroom w/ her students. She really goes above & beyond as a teacher. She is a wonderful role model for students & teachers alike.

Amanda ONeal Posted over a year ago

Sarah is a very inspirational individual. I have had the privilege of being a co-worker for many years. The impact that Sarah has had on many students and colleagues will forever be ever reaching. Last year, I also had the privilege of my daughter being in Sarah's class. She blossomed and grew under the wonderful eye and teaching of Miss Combs. Even now when she sees Miss Combs she runs to give her a hug. Thank you for the awesome influence in my child's life.

Cari Daniels Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs is an amazing teacher, she by far teaches from the heart. She puts her heart into her students and into her job. Sarah helps her peers when they are stuck. She is such an amazing teacher and overall person.

Angela Combs Posted over a year ago

Aside from having her as my sister-in-law I can honestly attest to her loving servants heart she truly has. I had the opportunity of working side by side with her and was able to witness the daily transformations of lives given to these precious young students. It doesn’t stop when she leaves the door at her classroom, she continues to look for ways to help others. She has made sure her students have what they need even while at home. She has delivered many Thanksgiving meals to families. If you took all the smiles that she has caused they would definitely be enough to light up the sky. My fondest memory of when I met Ms. Combs was looking up to her as she described her journey in education. I really wanted to be her.

Keri Kennedy Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs is an inspiration to many including me. She has such a huge heart for learning, pursuing dreams, and gives her whole heart to her kids; no matter what is thrown at her. When it comes to overcoming obstacles, she does not stop and forges forward no matter what her day or life consists of. Her ability to know each student and their needs allows her to teach all students and knows how to best impact their lives. She is an amazing teacher, colleague, and friend. She loves everyone and wants them all to succeed. Sarah continues to smile no matter what, and is deserving of this award!

Bridget Bartlett Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an amazing teacher! She made a huge impact on my son as his 5th grade teacher! She not only helped him as he struggled in reading but let him be exactly who he was, and most importantly loved him for it! I was over joyed when she began working in special education. As a colleague I watch her on a daily basis change childrens lives for the better. I believe Sarah Combs to be the best special educator I have ever met and I am honored to call her my friend.

Shauna Posted over a year ago

I was fortunate enough to have Sarah as my co-worker for 4 years, some of that time was spent on the same grade level team or working alongside her on various projects. I can vouch for all of the nominating para’s sentiments being so very true. Sarah is passionate about learning and seeing her students succeed. She’s equally passionate about building relationships with kids and fostering growth in each student that walks into her classroom. When I was a new teacher or in a new role, she was always helpful in providing resources and ideas to help me be successful in teaching, as well. So very appreciative of her friendship, especially as a new teacher. Kudos to Sarah on this beautiful nomination. It’s well-deserved, because she’s changed countless lives.

Hannah McCloud Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs is an absolutely amazing educator! She is patient, kind, and loving to all she encounters. She has a gift of knowing exactly what a child needs and has helped me in the past with behavior strategies for my students. I am so thankful my son was able to have her as his teacher during summer school. I truly saw him grow and know he felt so loved and accepted even when behaviors might arise in Miss Comb’s care. She also loves on my two daughters and has helped in their rooms after her school hours or during a break. She is an incredible educator and person and is so deserving of this nomination! She IS a life changer!

Katie Schiefelbein Posted over a year ago

Sarah, thank you so much for being part of our Tiger Team during professional development last year. Your advice and expertise were very helpful.

Sydney Dennis Posted over a year ago

Sarah is an amazing teacher. She loves her kids with her everything she has. She goes above and beyond for her kids everyday. Sarah is always willing to help in any situation. She is an amazing teacher and colleague. No matter what Sarah is faced with she does it with a positive attitude! We love you!!

Ginger Wright Posted over a year ago

As a paraprofessional, Miss Combs leads district wide trainings on behavior and strategies for the classroom specifically for para professionals. No question is too big or too small for her to answer and support. When a child’s name is mention she immediately says, “Oh I LOVE that kid!” She loves students and those around her. She is amazing and very much deserving of this nomination.

Rebecca Edwards Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs has always had a big heart for children, even as a young girl in second grade she would gave her own school supplies away so another child that had none wouldn’t go without. She then came home and came up with a reason why she needed new supplies for herself. So it is no surprise to me as her mother that she was totally surprised and embarrassed (feeling that she is undeserving of any special recognition) when she found out she was nominated for this prestigious award. Sarah is a very sweet and kind teacher but she will also have the children she teaches tow the line when need be. Good luck Sarah you deserve the recognition.

Addy Arias Posted over a year ago

I am so blessed to call Sarah a colleague and a friend. She works so hard to make sure the needs of all her students are met every single day. She's always ready to offer a listening ear and great advice. Sarah is always so willing to jump in and help anyone in need. We can always count on Sarah and her leadership skills and great communication. We're so lucky to have her here at Hollister.

Baylee Holle Posted over a year ago

She is one of the nicest teachers ever!! She always makes me smile! I love Her!! She had the best centers!

Barbara Pulliam Posted over a year ago

Years ago Ms Combs taught my granddaughter. She was such a good teacher. You automatically know that she cares deeply about each student. Today my granddaughter is a senior and is looking at colleges. MS Combs was a big part of that.

Macie Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs is the kind of teacher that I always wanted to have. She always has a smile on her face when I walk through the door, after being in Middle school all day.

Brandy Retasket Posted over a year ago

What can I say about Sarah? There are so many amazing attributes to this amazing woman! I've taught with Sarah for a number of years and have never met someone with such genuine grace and overflowing love. Sarah goes out of her way to make all of her children feel loved and valued. There is no one else who can calm an upset child like Sarah, then turn around and be just as supportive to an upset colleague. When we taught kindergarten kiddos together, she was a phenomenal sounding board for me and a wealth of strategies for little ones needing exta care. Her positive praise and love have helped many a melting little one. I treasure Sarah's insight, friendship and comradery. She is an educator we should all strive to emulate!

Renda Willson Posted over a year ago

Sarah Combs is an amazing teacher. She loves her kids with her whole heart. I have watched her grow as a teacher and I am in awe of all the amazing things she does. She works with her students and gives them her best each and every day. No only does she love and support her students but she also loves and supports her colleagues. She will always go the extra mile to make someone smile. She would be a great choice for this award.

Amanda tyler Posted over a year ago

Sarah, is a phenomenal teacher who goes above and beyond for her students everyday. My child adores her because she goes out of her way to make sure she knows that she is safe, loved, and it’s ok for her to want her mom during the day. My daughter was adopted and the trauma she faced before turning four has made somethings difficult to navigate but Sarah does it with grace and poise. As a peer teacher I admire that very much and hope to reflect those same qualities.

Wendy Stevens Posted over a year ago

Miss Combs is sweet hearted to all she encounters. Students and staff both go to her for comfort and advise. She listens with an open heart and mind. Giving back in gentle words, hugs and laughs. Here is one amazing teacher, leader all who come in contact with will leave on a happy note remembering Miss Combs took each encounter with a positive attitude. Miss Combs we love you and good luck!!!