The Unlikely Journey of Sandi Redenbach

By Lin Weaver

Sandi Redenbach with UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi
Sandi Redenbach with UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi

As I began this radio interview — which you can listen to — with  Sandi Redenbach, I immediately found myself thinking: Intelligence, resilience, passion for life, love of people, generosity, good humor.  Her eyes smiled as she spoke, and her voice filled every corner of the room with reassurance and strength, broken on occasion by a slight trembling of emotion.

Sandi is living proof that education and resilience can transform a person’s life, despite painful beginnings of abuse and neglect.  Sandi learned resilience at a very early age as a coping mechanism that gave her the power to bear her abusive, toxic family environment, and helped her to focus on who she really wanted to be.  It also taught her to hope and to dream that someday she might be “somebody.”

Sandi is now a well-known, longtime Yolo County educator, a philanthropist, a writer, and a distinguished alumna of the UC Davis School of Education where she serves as chairperson of the Alumni Council and is a member of he Dean Advisory Council.  She holds a BA and teaching credentials from UC Davis, and an MA in Educational Leadership from Saint Mary’s College.  She is also the recipient of many prestigious awards for her work in Human Rights, including the California Teachers Association, 1989 Martin Luther King Scholarship Award, a grant from the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education, has twice been named Outstanding Educator, and is listed in “Who’s Who Worldwide” and “Who’s Who in American Education.”

She and her husband have generously given back to UC Davis on several occasions, and have recently established the Sandi Redenbach “Students at-promise (as opposed to “at risk”) Award.”  Sandi continues to be an author and national consultant focused on the education of and programs for at-risk students.

Her journey began as a teenager on the streets of Boston, after leaving home where she feared for her life.  Finding herself homeless and penniless, Sandi soon learned the expediency of survival, just like many other kids in her situation.  She lied about her age and worked night shifts as a lounge singer and waitress.  The meager income allowed her to sleep in a cheap hotel for a night, or to buy food.  Sandi recalls the time when she shared a single pair of shoes with another waitress for months until she could afford her own.

Life’s circumstances brought her to California where she finished high school, went to Solano Community College and was then admitted to UC Davis.

Sandi’s career spans more than 35 years of classroom teaching.  In addition to high school drama, speech, social studies, language arts and English, she has taught classes in self-esteem, parenting, and rhetoric and communications at several colleges, adult education centers, and UC Davis.

Among her many initiatives, she has established a “dropout” recovery, independent study high school in Woodland because, “Even when I was a high school dropout and homeless, I still had hope that someday, somehow I would find a way to be somebody, and I just really want that for every kid.”

Lin Weaver is a media journalist and a radio and TV Producer.  She is a trustee of the UC Davis Foundation and a Member of the College of Biological Sciences Advisory Council.

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