The Sun Lakes Rotary Club’s “Educator of the Year” award recognizes excellence in education throughout the Chandler Unified School District. In May, 2018, the Sun Lakes Rotary selected Sandy Lundberg, just-retired principal of Casteel High School, as recipient of its first “Educator of the Year” award. Club President Peter Meade said, “Sandy is the crème de la crème – a true leader whose purpose and passion for education made her the unanimous choice for this award.”
The club’s “Educator of the Year” award acknowledges a teacher’s career and passion for teaching children; making a difference in their lives; challenging them to be more than they thought they could be. From the outset of Casteel High’s founding in 2015, Sandy said, “We have tried to build our school to be uncommon.” At Casteel, students are taught to say, “I don’t get this right now,” rather than just, “I don’t get this,” to reinforce that they can learn anything. Kara Wilson, Lundberg’s administrative assistant at Casteel High, said, “Sandy’s very passionate about education and about kids. She believes, and she surrounds herself with people who believe, that every child can succeed at a high level.”
Gunner Cruz, quarterback on Casteel’s championship varsity football team said, “Principal Lundberg always demanded the best out of everyone. She always made it clear that she had high expectations for all of us.”
Sadly, Sandy passed away on June 28, 2018, after a difficult battle with a rare kind of lung cancer that forced her retirement from Casteel. While she was undergoing targeted chemotherapy, she was asked how she met that challenge. Her answer? With her favorite expression: “Living in the Joy.”
Sandy referred to her Casteel staff as White Buffalo, and it became her opening line in her communications with them. White Buffalo is a reference to something rare and wonderful. In the process, Sandy has become the White Buffalo of Casteel – rare and wonderful.
As Dr. Camille Castell, Superintendent of CUSD, said, “Sandy is the kind of leader who boosts everyone she meets by uplifting their spirits and making them feel like they can accomplish anything. She is one of the most exceptional educational leaders I have had the privilege to work with in the Chandler Unified School District. Casteel High School, in its brief three years, is where it is today due to her passionate, motivational and visionary leadership. Anyone who knows her can relate to how contagious her energy and enthusiasm are for all those around her. Sandy is the total package… she has the intellect, charisma and drive to make sure each student receives the opportunity to succeed. Her retirement was a sad day for CUSD and me personally.”
Sandy was a cherished member of the Sun Lakes Rotary Club. Before joining CUSD 10 years ago, she taught school for 18 years in Minnesota. Prior to opening Casteel High, she was principal at Arizona College Preparatory – Oakland and CUSD administrator. A parent herself, Sandy and her husband Bill have two daughters: Maggie, 11, a student at Auxier Elementary School, and Melissa, 16, a junior at Casteel.