Whittier College has a proud history of training educators for work across a broad spectrum of fields. From teaching in classrooms to developing instructional technology, leading educational systems, and advocating for critical scholastic initiatives, Whittier alumni have been making significant contributions to this field from the beginning. Today, more than one-quarter of Whittier graduates are serving in this important industry, and many are impacting the lives of this country’s future leaders, utilizing the core principals they learned in Whittier’s own classrooms.
In 1977, Sandy Thorstenson graduated from Whittier College with a degree in XX. In 2012, she was selected California’s Superintendent of the Year, beating out colleagues in more than 100 state districts. Her credentials for this honor are simple: essentially, she has reversed the downward spiral of five Los Angeles high schools, closing the achievement gap to just 6% between the highest and lowest performing students—one of only a handful of California schools to do so in a waning economic environment.
Beginning her career in the classroom as teacher and later in successive administrative positions, Sandy is currently the Superintendent for Whittier Union High School District, a modest enclave that has nevertheless catapulted to the public eye for its stunning forward march under her leadership.
Her mantra has been “Whatever It Takes” –an initiative and attitude fully realized in practice that has caught the interest of colleagues and critics alike. Her methods involve assessments and intervention at key junctures, and the testimony to the success of the program lies in the numerous graduates of her schools that choose to continue their education post-graduation (nearly 95%). These are students she has inspired, has challenged, and has directed toward academic and personal achievement. And in recent times, she has been hailed for not only transforming these schools, but for developing true model “learning communities,” and for being a tireless advocate for educational funding and developmental programs.