“Nominations came from all across the state from students, parents, administrators, fellow colleagues and more (but only) five are selected for this prestigious award.”
Central Elementary Principal Karrie Gallo, who nominated Stegman and described the former computer engineer for IBM employee, who came to a teaching career later in life, as having thrived despite a “challenging childhood.”
“She was an orphan who bounced from foster home to foster home. So many odds were against her, but she refused to back down. She persevered through grade school and worked her way through college. She became a computer engineer,” wrote Gallo in her nomination letter to ODE officials.
Later, “she found her calling for teaching - to work in a school in a district with diversity, English learners, and poverty. If any of her students have a need she does everything she can to provide for them. She is no stranger to bringing in hair products for young ladies, food for hungry children, or finding folks to be a male role model to support young men. She is a leader in Fairfield for diversity, equity, and inclusion work.”
Gallo added Stegman also “helps new teachers navigate this challenging profession, sharing her motivational mantra: It’s hard to lead with heart.”
Stegman, a 20-year veteran instructor with Fairfield, said her challenging background prepared her in ways to better help young students overcome their obstacles.
“My outcome could have been so different I could have been a statistic,” she said.
“I am a 70 year old kid, so when I see these kids, I see me. I feel as though I have a lot to give back. If not for the many teachers who supported me, I wouldn’t be who I am today. As a teacher I feel that it’s not a job. It’s a ministry,” she said.
And she shared some advice with her teacher colleagues there to celebrate her award.
“As teachers don’t ever think you can’t save one. It only takes one. If you save one, they may save two. I think I have the greatest job in the world,” said Stegman.
Fairfield Superintendent Billy Smith said “no one can convince me there is anyone in the state who is more deserving of this award than Sandi.”
“She is truly one in a million. Over the years, she has had a positive impact on thousands of students and staff members,” said Smith.