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Alumni Spotlight Erika (Sanders) Fletcher (’07)

Alumni Spotlight Erika (Sanders) Fletcher (’07)

A husband and wife and their two sons standing in a field smiling at the camera.

“Where do you want to go to college?” was not a question that was regularly asked of me growing up. Both of my parents were (and still are) incredibly driven and hardworking, but neither obtained a college degree. I first heard about East Texas Baptist University from one of my best friends, Jennifer Bless. She wanted to go to ETBU, and since I’d never given much thought to college, I naively agreed to be her roommate. Deciding to attend ETBU was one of the best decisions of my life- even if it felt like I’d made the decision on a whim. God had been preparing me for my time on the Hill for years.

My first couple of years at ETBU were spent trying to figure out what I really wanted to do with my life. As a little girl, I assisted my Nona in teaching Sunday School to kindergarten and first graders. I knew I loved to teach, but I didn’t truly understand the call on my life. I originally determined my degree would be education, but I did take a semester to try out nursing. That was a short-lived endeavor. When I entered the School of Education, I met Dr. Donna Lubcker. She taught me how to teach students through developmentally appropriate, engaging, and hands-on activities. She immediately became someone I aspired to be like. She’d written books and curriculum and taught abroad- her accomplishments were incredible, but she never led with that. She was warm, kind, consistent, and hysterical. She truly left an imprint on my life.

 Heather, Ashley, Tiffany, Laura, Stephanie, Nola, Andi, Bethany, Jodie, Amy, Jennifer, Mr. Kenny (shout out, ETBU Mailroom!) and the list goes on and on and on! Spending my days and many late nights with my friends at ETBU transformed me. We spent hours reading, writing, eating, chatting, shopping, and speed cleaning together. We had deep, meaningful conversations but had no problem sitting in complete silence for hours at a time. We cared for one another when we were physically sick, heartbroken, overwhelmed, or discouraged. We all have a bond that has lasted through marriages, births, deaths, true joy, and pain.

 As an elementary educator, I’ve had the opportunity to teach and connect with many wonderful families. About seven years ago, I had a kindergarten student who lost his older sister to a tragic horse-riding accident. Our class grew Pink Lady Butterflies in her honor. I’ve continued to do so each Spring. I currently have a mesh-like cylinder hanging by a window in our kitchen. One night, we went to bed with one butterfly. The next morning, our boys, Jackson and Grayson, discovered SEVEN butterflies. The parallels seemed fitting as I reflect on my time on the Hill. When the larvae arrived, they were tiny, surrounded by nutrition and the opportunity to grow. Their process hasn’t been easy- they have worked hard to form a protective layer of skin, attached to a sturdy surface to help as they weathered the elements, and then they wait. As they start to emerge from the chrysalis, the transformation isn’t over. Their wings need to dry for them to fly successfully. They flap their wings repeatedly to set them for flight.

We, as ETBU Tigers, go through a similar process. We arrive young and naive, but we are surrounded by faculty and friends who teach us and nurture us. We secure ourselves to Jesus, our firm foundation. We transform, struggle, and weather the storms of life, but in the end, we emerge into a world with the knowledge we need to be our best and do our best. Upon graduation, we are ready to take flight.

My time at ETBU prepared me to love my students, to see them as Christ sees them, and to extend grace and forgiveness. Through my coursework and in-class experiences, I learned how to analyze, diagnose, adjust, and modify instruction for my students. I gained the confidence to advocate for my students, serve on leadership committees, collaborate as a team lead, guide as a Cooperating Teacher, and mentor novice teachers. I’m currently employed through Texas State University, where I help student teachers navigate their student teaching semester before graduation. I take much of the teaching style I experienced as a student teacher at ETBU and apply it to my students at TXST. I’m proud to continue to serve the students of Texas in this role.