Sandra Bolton

Honored by: Donna Niday
Brick location:SECTION 0; ROW 21, PAVER 10  map
Sandra Bolton always wanted to be an English teacher, but it got delayed a bit because of her becoming a wife and mother. After she was the mother of several children, she began working on her BA by taking night classes at St. Louis University; she had to take several modes of transportation to reach the university from her home across the river in Illinois. Then her family moved to Iowa, and she was able to take first a couple of classes at Coe College in Cedar Rapids and then daytime classes at the University of Iowa. It took her ten years, while she was raising her six children, but she received her BA from UI in 1968 and then an MA in 1970. In 1970, she accepted an offer to teach English at Mt. Vernon High School, where she taught until 1984. Basically every year, she taught all four levels of English. For Freshmen and Sophomores, this meant teaching “regular” English (literature, writing, etc.); for Juniors and Seniors it mostly meant teaching a variety of electives, including such classes as Advanced Composition, Contemporary Literature, Individualized Reading, and the Bible as Literature.To prepare for this last class, she took a one-month summer course at Indiana University called “Teaching the Bible in the Secondary School." After taking 12 hours of journalism classes over two summers, she also began teaching Journalism classes with a focus on the yearbook. In 1984, Sandra spent a year at Iowa State University as a teacher of Freshman Composition in the first semester and supervising student teachers under the supervision of Dick Zbaracki in the second semester; she was part of a program to connect secondary schools with universities in Iowa. Between 1985 and 1990 she did coursework for a PhD in English Education at the University of Iowa. While at UI, Sandra taught Rhetoric classes and also taught in the Writing Lab and the Reading Lab as part of the Rhetoric Department. In 1985 and 1986, Sandra served as president of the Iowa Council of Teachers of English, and in 1991, she received that organizations' annual Distinguished Service Award, joining a list of the state’s illustrious educators. In addition, between 1985 and 1992, she was teaching summer classes for the Iowa Writing Project (IWP), a project created to help K-12 teachers learn about teaching writing more effectively, including across the curriculum. Each session of IWP lasted for 3 weeks, and Sandra taught classes in a number of Iowa towns, including Red Oak, Sheldon, Keystone, Mason City, and Fairfield. Sandra finished work on her PhD at the point of being ABD (all but dissertation). Her career then took another turn, and in 2004, she became a language specialist at ACT in Iowa City, where her department worked with classrooms around the United States in developing portfolios. Many teachers were introduced to the idea of assessment using portfolios of student writing, rather than giving grades to individual essays—a process that can help students improve their writing over time. Sandra also helped to train raters to assess these portfolios. Another ACT project of Sandra’s was creating essay writing prompts for people who applied to work in the United States Foreign Service and later to train raters to score those essays, creating sets of example papers and rubrics. A contract with a Japanese company to create English tests for Japanese students learning English in Japan had her also creating materials and training raters to assess the writing of students learning English as a Second or Additional Language. While at ACT, Sandra gave a number of presentations at conferences of the Iowa Council of Teachers of English, the National Council of Teachers of English, and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, and also one presentation to English teachers in Japan in 2000. After retiring from ACT in 2004, Sandra embarked on yet another phase of her career—fifteen years of teaching various composition classes at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, which continued until her retirement in 2019. All in all, Sandra had a 50-year teaching career, including teaching students at high school, community college, and university levels, as well as teaching teachers in the IWP and working with various levels of students and their teachers while at ACT. Sandra is the sort of teacher about whom Geoffrey Chaucer wrote: “And gladly would (s)he learn and gladly teach.”