Life began for William Sanders in small-town America. Born in 1935 in Fredericktown, MO, Sanders' life has been anything but small. His has been a life of service.
Sanders graduated from Drury University in Springfield, MO in 1959 with a degree in education and a teaching certificate. He chose to join the army.
His 28 years in the service took him around the world and into harm's way. "I've served in Moscow, South Korea, Bangkok, Singapore, Haiti and more," said Sanders. He also witnessed the Tet Offensive in Vietnam. It is considered the turning point in the war and in American public opinion about the war. Over 1,500 U.S. service members were killed and more than 7,500 were wounded.
Sanders retired from the army in 1988 as a colonel.
"I couldn't sit around all the time," he said. "I worked with Rawlings Sporting Goods for a time but I had no expertise in the civilian world."
Sanders credits his wife with nudging him into a second service career.
"She suggested I might like being a substitute teacher and I gave it a try," Sanders said. He now has clocked more than a decade with the district.
Sanders began working in Parkway School District's eventually. He returns to Fern Ridge High School for the 11th year. Sanders teaches as a permanent substitute for the school.
So at age 75, Sanders works full-time. He is active with the high school seniors, tracking their classes and making sure they earn the credits they need for graduation.
"I haven't lost a senior yet," Sanders said. "Working with kids in need has been a good thing. I've lived history and often get a chance to talk about life's history to the students. . .I make myself useful here."
"The Colonel, as we call him, makes history come alive for these kids," said Becky Warren, principal at Fern Ridge. "And the students respect him."
Empathy and respect are the keys to working with students Sanders said.
"I find that if I give these students respect, they give it back. I know our students and their lives," Sanders said. "I just love it."