Sacramento Adventist Academy eighth grade teacher Bob Sanford passed away Thursday, March 18, due to complications from pneumonia. He had served at SAA for almost 35 years — his whole teaching career — and he impacted the lives of hundreds of sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.
"Mr. Sanford was a teacher that made a difference and touched the lives of his students ... He changed my life at a time I needed it!" said Brian Watts, who was in Sanford's class as a sixth grader in 1977.
Years later, Sanford was still connecting with his students in positive ways. "He taught us many things about God and gave us new perspectives," said current SAA eighth-grader Emily Ann Suani. "He was a good man, and I know that we will be seeing him again in heaven."
Sanford's former students still remember his useful math "shortcuts," his class time devoted to current events, and his geography memorization requirements. "I still think of him every time I see a map of the world," said former student Merrilyn Carey Johnson, who was in Sanford's class in the early '90s.
He was also known for his jokes and his delight in telling a good story. "I will never forget all the stories that he told that always began, 'When I was in the Army,'" said Christine Mercer Filipovich, Sanford's student in the mid-'80s.
Sanford grew up in Benicia, Calif., and attended church and school in Vallejo. After graduating from Rio Lindo Adventist Academy, he attended Pacific Union College, where he met his wife Katie Tooley. They were married in 1969. Sanford graduated from PUC the following year, with a bachelor's degree in history and a minor in biology.
Drafted into the Army in 1972, Sanford endured some challenging times because he was a conscientious objector who would not work on Sabbath. He spent two years stationed in Germany, where he learned to speak German. When he returned home, he was the only one in the family who could talk to his mother in her original language.
Stateside again, Sanford earned his Master's degree in history from PUC in 1975. He was hired by SAA (then Sacramento Union Academy) that same year.
The Sanfords have two daughters, Amie and Laurie, who both had their dad for a teacher. They enjoyed being in his class, but they claim he was a bit harder on them than on the other students in order not to show favoritism.
He may have been strict with his daughters at school, but the Sanford clan had a lot of fun together. "Try sitting around the dinner table with six Sanfords," said his niece Kari McKinney. "There was always a lot of great food and non-stop stories and laughter."
Of all his qualities, perhaps the one that people remember the most was his attitude. "Bob Sanford was an extraordinary man. He always had a positive outlook on life — even when it threw him a curveball. He was able to praise God no matter the circumstances," said SAA Principal Bettesue Constanzo.
The week before his death, the theme at faculty worship was praise. "Bob was very involved in the topic as we shared each day how we are able to continue to praise God even in the worst of circumstances," said SAA English and math teacher Kathi Provonsha. "Bob's ability to praise God through his own health challenges and those of his family inspired us all."
Despite his physical trials, Sanford continued to focus on his students. "Even when facing all of his medical crises, his main thought was to get back to school to be with 'his kids,'" said SAA fourth grade teacher Dolly Jackson.
Sanford's family, colleagues, students and friends look forward to seeing him again. "Bob and I spent hundreds of days and thousands of hours together over the past 35 years," said SAA seventh grade teacher Ron Ritterskamp. "I will miss my friend Bob, his stories, and our time together, until the day that God will 'make all things new.'"