When teaching the fundamentals of any profession, practical experience is always helpful. Dr. Renee Sasser joins Augusta University as an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership in the Department of Teaching and Leading with more than 30 years of experience in classroom teaching and school leadership.
“It’s an important position in which to bring real-world experience. You can’t teach this out of a book,” Sasser said.
Educational leaders manage areas like curriculum and student services, and teams like grade levels and schools, in order to create the most effective learning environment for students in grades kindergarten through twelfth grade. Their professional titles can vary, and might include department chairs, curriculum coordinators, assessment directors, assistant principals, principals, and district staff and administration. Each of the possible professional roles come with a collection of projects to fund, standards to implement, and statistics to improve. In an ever-more complex time with new challenges, it can be overwhelming.
But Sasser said that what she teaches her students is that the best way for educational leaders accomplish any of the goals in educational leadership comes down to just one predominant concept.
“It is about the relationships you build with the kids. When you know the students, you know their needs,” she said.
Sasser started out teaching fifth grade language arts at Blakeney Elementary in Burke County, and spent 34 years serving the students there as a teacher, instructional coordinator, assistant principal and finally as principal. She says she knew every student in the building, and they all knew her.
“You cannot run a school building by sitting in the office in front of a computer. Every child in that building is not a testing number. They are a flesh-and-blood child,” she said.
Along the way, Sasser learned numerous transformative personal and professional lessons. One that endures is that a leader should not ask anyone to do anything they’re not willing to do. When the school held events, she helped sweep the floors. After lunches, she helped clear tables. And she always did bus duty. These experience-driven lessons are the kinds of professional practices she intends to teach to both her professionally experienced graduate students in the Educational Leadership degree programs, and to undergraduates who are just beginning their professional journeys.
To do this work at Augusta University means she’ll be giving back to the university that gave her the key to a profession for which her passion has never faded. Sasser graduated from then-Augusta College in 1982, then went on to complete a masters at Troy State University, before returning to then-Augusta State University for an Education Specialist degree, and finishing her doctorate at Georgia Southern University. She worked for the College of Education in the 2019-2020 academic year as limited-term faculty, and joins now as full-time faculty.
“This institution has made me who I am,” she said. “I began here in 1978 and I’m still here 2020.”