After nearly 50 years of teaching, Jo Sanders is retiring from teaching. Sanders officially stepped down in late October due to health issue.

On Monday, November 13, the school she helped start, Rilke Schule Charter School, gave her the proper send off. Students, parents, past pupils and friends all filed into the Rilke Schule gymnasium to give Sanders, also known as Frau Sanders, a proper farewell. 

She co-founded Rilke Schule in 2007 at ChangePoint Church. There were 163 students enrolled in that first year, one decade later, Sanders' German immersion program is now the standard across the United States.

The retirement ceremony for Sanders featured music from students and a very special guest, former principal of Rilke Schule, Dean Ball, who made the trip from Sarasota, Florida.

"I've known Jo Sanders for 24 years," Ball said. "I met her at Bartlett High School when I was a substitute teacher. I wandered over to her room during lunch, had a conversation with her and little did I know, at the time, that the conversation would lead to the 20-year career that I had in the Anchorage School District."

Sanders has always been involved in so many things. She had a positive effect on her students, her students' families and her colleagues to an extend unlike anyone else.

"She served as President of the American Association of teachers of German and the treasurer," Ball said. "She has spoken internationally, nationally and at local conferences. She's pretty much a legend. I mean, we all love her."

When Sanders looks back at her career, it's the little kids that put her work into perspective.

"When little kids come up and say, are you Frau Sanders and I say, 'yes', my grandpa had you at Bartlett High School," Sanders said. "Then I know that I have reached my goal. I've inspired the father to take it, the son to take it and now the grandson. To involve all these kids in German language, the culture and the value of another language, I'm satisfied."

Even more satisfying for Sanders is how the German club saved lives.

"I identified with each student personally and they with each other," Sanders said. "Those are the family groups we formed. I did not judge kids by their grades because each one has an individual story, a different life and sometimes one little thing would make a difference. Sometimes it was a big thing. Three times the German club kept people from committing suicide. When I think of that it is tremendously important to me."

The school honored Sanders by naming the Library and Media Center after her.

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