Rodrigo Sanchez: Former Garlough Student Returns as Teacher

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Back in 2005, Rodrigo Sanchez attended Garlough Elementary School in West St. Paul as a fourth grader. This year he returned to Garlough—now Garlough Environmental Magnet School—as a third grade teacher.

The 2018-2019 school year was Sanchez’s first year as a classroom teacher, though he previously returned to Garlough for his field experience, volunteering in the classroom and after school with the School Age Care program.

Mr. Sanchez with his third grade class at Garlough in 2019.

“The least I could do is come back and give back what was once passed down to me.”

-Rodrigo Sanchez

We talked with Sanchez to find out what it’s like coming back to Garlough:

What’s it like coming back to Garlough as a teacher?

It’s been an amazing experience. It is a dream come true to come home to where it all started for me. Going from being a former student to now a teacher feels special to me because this school, this community, the district did so much for me not only as a student but as a child.

I went from Garlough to Heritage to Sibley. Every teacher that I encountered, that I learned from, put me on that right path to succeed. The least I could do is come back and give back what was once passed down to me—knowledge, friendships, but more importantly, the love for my school and community. 

I have lots of visions of me playing and learning and now I walk down the halls guiding my own class through highs and lows. 

What makes Garlough so special?

At Garlough we have the most amazing, unique, intelligent, bright scholars and all the beautiful cultures and traditions all their families bring to our school. It’s amazing to see a classroom filled with so many different incredible scholars working together, supporting and respecting each other.

I also have to add on the nature aspect that Garlough brings! It’s amazing that I have so many resources around me that I can use for my students to explore. We have Dodge Nature Center right across the street where we go once or twice a week. All around Garlough we have Outdoor Wonder Learning Stations (OWLS) where I can go with my scholars and learn a little about that station or even do certain activities. 

How has Garlough changed since you were a student?

Garlough has changed a lot since I was there, one being that it wasn’t an environmental magnet school. Sure, we did lots of fun, outdoor activities and we went to Dodge—but nothing compared to where it is today. The beautiful land, the community gardens, OWL Stations and also all the technology we have implemented into our daily work for your scholars but also for us teachers. 

Rodrigo Sanchez on the Garlough playground back in 2004.

What are you excited about for the future of Garlough and West St. Paul as a whole?

To see the new additions we are getting to the school. We are very excited to see the construction project coming along and we’re anxious to see it all finished. The new open spaces will provide us with not only more space but resource and areas for students to work in small groups with teachers. 

I’m excited see how well this community and this city grows more and more not only in space but coming together. We have lots of parents involved in wanting to better not only our city but school. 

Our future is here in West Saint Paul, but better yet I know our future is at Garlough—those scholars are our future. 

What’s the best—and worst—part about being a teacher?

The best part about being a teacher is watching these scholars grow, not only physically, but mentally. It’s so rewarding to see them succeed when you know you were scaffolding them throughout the way and know they are standing tall and proud. Being a teacher involves many roles, not only am I a teacher now to these kids, but a friend or a person they can trust throughout their day. The best part about being a teacher is being a teacher at Garlough, where I call it home. 

There are negatives in life but we learn from them to reflect on the positives. The only negative part about teaching is time. There are not enough hours in the day to do it all. Teaching is beautiful and rewarding—walking into my classroom every day feels right. Again, it feels like home. 


Learn more about Sanchez and hear from Garlough Principal Sue Powell in this alumni profile from Inver Hills Community College.

Thanks to Rodrigo Sanchez for sharing his insights with the West St. Paul Reader.

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