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Clarine Sandstrom: Combining curriculum with compassion

Most adults can name someone who made a difference in their lives: a coach who spent extra time with a kid and a bat; a leader who made volunteering fun; a teacher who believed in a student, against all odds.

Clarine Sandstrom, Minot State University's early childhood education program director, is such a person. Even though she has a doctorate in educational administration, when "Dr. C" describes her work, she uses words like "rejuvenate, relate, inspire."

"I've had some struggles and Dr. Sandstrom is always there as a support," said education senior, Christine Giest. "She makes sure I get the most out of each semester. She's an awesome advisor -- I wouldn't have wanted anyone else."

Sandstrom graduated from Minot State College in 1970 with a degree in elementary education and music minor. She taught for 25 years in the Plaza School District. In 1986 she obtained her Master of Science in elementary education from MSU and added administrative duties to her teaching schedule.

In the late '80s, Garrison, Parshall, Max, North Shore and Plaza schools combined to create the Missouri Hills Consortium. Sandstrom accepted the overwhelming task of elementary curriculum coordinator.

"This was my first true experience in working with teachers from various school cultures, traditions and philosophies about curriculum and assessment - all coming together on the development of a K-6 common core curriculum for the consortium," said Sandstrom. "It allowed me to step out of my comfort zone and challenged me to think outside the box. It motivated me to become an instructional leader!"

Sandstrom joined Minot Public Schools in 1995 as Perkett Elementary principal for two years, and Edison Elementary for five years. In that time she obtained a specialist degree in educational leadership from the University of North Dakota.

In fall 2002, Sandstrom accepted a teaching position at MSU, in the Teacher Education and Human Performance department. She completed her doctorate in 2007.

She has impressive credentials and many diplomas, but her genuine compassion and empathy is what draws people to her.

Interestingly, Sandstrom credits that empathy to massage therapy. "Getting licensed in massage therapy helped me learn about people," Sandstrom said. "I fell in love with the idea of helping people in a different way."

Sandstrom owned a massage therapy business for years and found many of the skills required of a good therapist and businesswoman applied to education.

"Massage opened up a different vein about how to work with and relate to people at a more intimate level than we are sometimes afforded as educators," she said. "This has impacted my student advising. In early childhood education classes we talk about child care needs, but also what it takes to operate a business. It helps bring balance to the decision making process."

This fall Sandstrom will lead MSU's new early childhood education program to prepare candidates to become teachers of young children 0-8 years of age.

"There is a movement toward public schools educating four year olds. Early intervention addressing the "whole" young child has the potential to develop skills in such areas as social, emotional and psychological well-being, language, reading, listening, math, movement and the fine arts," Sandstrom said. "My job will be to form partnerships with early childcare providers and learning centers to give MSU teacher candidates exposure and well-designed practice in the field."