Sandra Trick didn't start her career out as a teacher, but she can't imagine doing anything else.
The high school English and journalism teacher at Montoursville Area High School also is the adviser of the award-winning student newspaper, The Arrowhead.
Trick started her career as a reporter at the Williamsport Sun-Gazette in 2004 after graduating from Penn State University with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
Sandra Trick, second from left in the first row, is shown with some of her ninth-grade students at Montoursville Area High School. Some of the students are shown with the work they presented during class that they made to represent scenes and themes from Homer’s “Odyssey.”
When her husband, Nathan, also a teacher at MAHS, was student-teaching while he was at Susquehanna University, the two would discuss ways Nathan could reach struggling students. As the conversations went on, Trick knew her real passion was in education.
So while working full-time at the paper, she commuted to Susquehanna University, where she received her teaching certification in secondary education in January 2006. She went on to get a master's degree in education in September 2011, days before the birth of her son, Milo.
Her first year teaching was at Warrior Run Middle School from 2006 to 2007.
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But when teacher Christine Kindon retired from teaching English and journalism at MAHS, Trick knew that was the job she wanted.
After all, it was the high school where her husband taught and from where she and her three siblings all graduated.
"I was always told that I should be a teacher," she said.
She recalled the interview where she met with now-retired Principal Raymond Huff, who told her years ago that she would end up teaching.
"I laughed at him at the time, but when I walked in for my interview, he said, 'who's laughing now,' " she said.
Most of family reside in the Montoursville area and have ties to education.
Her mother, Marilyn Huff, is the school nurse for South Williamsport Area School District. Her grandmother was the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse - the Mrs. Huff wooden sign that hangs in her classroom is from her - and her great-grandfather was a superintendent of schools for Sullivan County. Her sister, Heather, is an instructional aide at MAHS - they've worked together for the past three years in the same classroom - and her younger brother, Caleb, is a substitute teacher at MAHS. Her older brother, David, also is pursuing his teaching certificate in history.
Now in her fifth year at MAHS, she teaches 130 students in journalism, honors English 9 and English 10. During a recent class day, students in honors English 9 were presenting projects they made that related to themes in Homer's "Odyssey" or Greek culture.
One student handmade a ceramic plate featuring a scene from "Odyssey" where Odysseus goes past the Sirens. Another student created a timeline in the shape of a man that was full of symbolism and meaning in relation to the "Odyssey," while another created a Trojan horse out of pine needles, pine cones and sticks.
Trick pointed out when students correctly used vocabulary words and offered positive encouragement and feedback to those who were presenting.
Trick's classroom is next door to the Arrowhead newsroom, which is full of computers and framed awards the newspaper has received for placing in the Pennsylvania School Press Association annual award competitions.
When honors English 9 was over, it was time for journalism, and the journalism students were excited about the recently published December issue.
Trick said that students are responsible for the paper and distribute it during flex periods and lunches, as well as submitting stories and artwork for the Williamsport Sun-Gazette's student-produced "inside" page.
She had the students fill out a peer assessment for each other for December and instructed the students to brainstorm ideas by looking at other publications she received through a national newspaper exchange program.
Justice Rooker, a senior and features editor at the paper, said she has been in Trick's classes since she was a sophomore.
"She's laid back when she needs to be and strict when she needs to be," Rooker said. "She lets us do what we need to do."
As an adviser, Rooker said Trick encourages the newspaper staff to come up with their own ideas, and even lets them run with those ideas if she disagrees with them.
Simone Brown, a senior, is assistant editor of the paper. In the three years she has had Trick as a teacher, she has known her as a "miracle worker."
"I really like her," Brown said. "She is always in a good mood and keeps people on task ... she gets stuff done and is very organized and good at planning."
Michael Krall, editor-in-chief at the paper, ran the meeting, which was focused on planning the January edition of the paper. The theme is Beatles, and each section was going to focus on a different Beatles album.
Trick said there was never a question in her family that she and her siblings would go to college or do well in school - it was always understood.
"We were not rewarded for getting good grades because it was just expected," she said. During vacations, her parents took the family to historical places and encouraged reading.
When it comes to the challenges faced in public schools today, Trick said she was lucky to start teaching when she did because she's "been in the thick of it since she started teaching" in regard to technology changes, budget cuts, staffing cuts and increased class sizes.
She even took a class called "Classrooms for the Future" to secure a mobile laptop lab for her students.
Trick said her challenge is to present the information in a different way to pique the students' interests. When she realized that she needed to find a new novel for her sophomores to read each school year, she attended a state conference that focused on new young adult literature and presented that information to her peers during a recent staff meeting.
Lock Haven University senior Meagan Arnold, who had Trick as a teacher her senior year in 2007-08, said she had some big shoes to fill when she was hired at Montoursville.
"She came in during my senior year after Mrs. [Christine] Kindon retired, and she was so beloved," Arnold said. "It was a huge thing for the seniors, it was emotional."
Arnold said that Trick "did what no one else could have done so successfully."
"She never tried to undo what Mrs. Kindon did," Arnold said. "She had such patience ... she's fantastic at what she does."
Arnold said that as the school newspaper adviser, Trick has helped the paper and its staff grow leaps and bounds.
"She made some subtle changes that became bigger changes now that the staff are 'her kids,' " Arnold said.
Arnold said that she still keeps in touch with Trick and is grateful for her continued friendship.
Trick's mother, Marilyn Huff, said she was "pleasantly surprised" that Trick became a teacher because all throughout her childhood she wanted to become a veterinarian.
"She worked summers for Dr. Lundy then became allergic to cats," Huff said. "But she always liked to write and describe things and she always liked school."
Huff said her daughter was the school yearbook editor when she was in high school and always could "write in a hurry."
"She's very lucky that she has the journalism class and that room next door," she said. "A lot of schools don't have that and it makes a huge difference."
Huff said her daughter is fortunate that she can combine her two passions into one job.
"Teaching fits her perfectly," Huff said about her daughter. "She loves what she does."