Just 1 Question: Thomas Paine Elementary's principal retires

Just 1 Question: Thomas Paine Elementary's principal retires

The end of the 2016-17 school year marked the end of SANDY COOPER's 23-year journey as an educator in Urbana schools. How will the retiring Thomas Paine Elementary principal be remembered by her co-workers? We asked a few.



"Mrs. Cooper values my opinion and abilities. I will miss how she cares about what happens in our work and personal lives. I will miss her dedication and willingness to help me when I bring a problem to her that I need her help on."


Second-grade teacher

"She understands that teaching is a tough, demanding and sometimes under-appreciated occupation. Sandy does things above and beyond the duties of principal. I've seen her do crossing guard duty, teach in a classroom, act as a teaching assistant, do lunch recess supervision and act as a bus monitor.

"One of the fondest memories I have of Sandy is when she allowed student to duct tape her to the gym wall for a PBIS celebration. She's always 'game' for celebrating student success"



"Sandy has the ability to see strengths in people they often don't see in themselves and helps them build on their strengths by coaching, challenging and encouraging us to become the best professional and person we can be. I know this first-hand. She has challenged me professionally, encouraged and supported me personally and for that I am forever grateful. She is more than a role model as an educator, she is a 'real model.'"


Speech language pathologist

"Once, she brought a baby duck to share with a special education class. She was very patient, knowing the students needed time to process and build up courage to pet the baby duck.

"I've also brought students to her office to ask her to class parties and she patiently waited for students to ask their questions. She even followed up with more questions to engage the student further."


Life-skills teacher

"As I'm sure everyone can imagine, that first year of teaching can be very rough. Lucky for me, though, I had the one and only Sandy Cooper cheering me on the whole way.

"Throughout this year, Sandy was my mentor, advisor and friend. Her wealth of knowledge and cheery personality made her an easy go-to person from the beginning. Whenever I had a question or concern, she was always there asking how she could help and what she could do."


Teacher aide

"Mrs. Cooper dispels the image of a mean, old principal. She is kind to the students even when she has to be firm."



"She always has an encouraging word when we need it. She is very patient, kind, generous and understanding. She encourages us to be our very best in the most difficult situations. She is always very flexible and never knows what her day may have in store for her. I hope her days are filled with relaxation and enjoyment with her family and new grandson."


Substitute teacher

"When Sandy Cooper became principal of Thomas Paine, our elementary school community was not a healthy environment. The anxiety level was high. We were trying to recover from a devastating situation. The school needed comforting, nurturing and the reassurance of our children's safety.

"Mrs. Cooper entered the building with compassion and administrative experience. She showed sensitivity to our immediate concerns and owned a confidence that helped put us at ease. She has always stressed the importance of achieving social and academic goals at Thomas Paine. As principal, she has had to shift from praising quality behavior to launching corrective strategies. She has been funny, friendly, firm or overpowering depending on what each situation requires."


Social worker

"I will miss Sandy dearly and I wish her the best of luck when she retires this year. She has a huge passion for helping students and families. Sandy is dedicated to the work she does and there is not a day that she hasn't gone above and beyond to do what is best for students. I admire her caring and loving spirit. She brings so much to the Thomas Paine family. What I will miss most about Sandy is her loving heart and dedication to the field."


Second-grade teacher

"Sandy Cooper and I started at Thomas Paine at the same time 10 years ago. She was a new principal and I was a teacher new to Thomas Paine. It was clear from the start that this was her passion. She wanted Thomas Paine to be the best school in every way and she worked very hard to make our school a shining star in the district. I will always remember that she held to her conviction that everything we did was for the children. That was our focus on all our plans and initiatives. Even when at time we had to take on what was felt to be challenging, she would always remind us that we were here for the kids. Her hope was that every child would be able to do their personal best in order to be able to achieve personal greatness."


Reading interventionist

"Sandy is enthusiastic about PBIS, she advocates for student and family needs, she is supportive of the PTA, celebrates student achievement and encourages family participation through various activities at school."


Principal, Urbana Middle School

"I get to work with Sandy, and she is my daughter's principal. Over the past three years at Thomas Paine, my daughter has had a wonderful experience, and she loves Mrs. Cooper.

"Did you know that she has small groups of kids over to visit at her house during breaks? My daughter gets super excited about these little trips, and Sandy has already asked if it can continue, even when she is not the principal.

"Of course!"


Principal, Urbana High School

"My memory is her smile and helpfulness anytime I saw her. She is a positive inspiration to me and I wish her all the best going forward."

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Meii Chan wrote on June 01, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Mrs. Cooper, we wish you all the best and enjoy your time after your retirement. Ethan is 16 now, he still remembers you and talks about you when we see news about Thomas Paine. You are such a patient and capable principle and educator. We appreciate everything you have done. <3