Cumberland Q&A: Sandy Elliott
CU Dispatch: Name?
Sandy Elliott: Sandy Elliott. Two l’s, two t’s.
Department at Cumberland?
Elliott: SHEA (Author's note: We then struggled to remember what SHEA stands for, even though we’re both in that department.)
Hometown? Current or former?
Elliott: My current hometown is Mt Juliet, unofficially. Before I moved to Mt Juliet I
was in Nashville.
What led you to Cumberland?
Elliott: I graduated from here multiple times, but it was always my goal when I was an
undergraduate student to come back and teach here.
What drew you to your field of study?
Elliott: A scholarship!. I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was offered a
scholarship to be a music major and that’s where it all started. There was no turning
What are your hobbies?
Elliott: Jazzercise. I love to read, it’s so hard for me right now because I don’t have time,
but I love to read. I love to cook.
Ain’t nothing wrong with a soup. Do you collect anything?
Elliott: Yes! I collect salt and pepper shakers and aprons. Oh, I forgot one of my hobbies!
Ancestry.com. I’ve been doing it for almost 20 years.
What do you mean?
Elliott: I have an ancestry account that I have worked on for almost 20 years.
Have you found anything interesting?
Elliott: It says I’m related to Benedict Arnold. (laughs.) That’s
what I found.
What are you passionate about?
Elliott: I’m actually passionate about my work. Sometimes I act like “Ugh, I’m so
tired, and I don’t want to do this," but if I talk about it with anybody, bless their hearts,
they don’t ever get to talk. I’m like “Today in choir, let me tell you what happened!" and
I’m very passionate about it. I’m passionate about helping the choir program and the music
program here at Cumberland. I see so much potential for this program to be amazing, but
it’s not an easy task at all.
What skill would you most like to learn?
Elliott: I’d like to learn sign language. I have the basics of it, but I’m not fluent. I would also like to learn; I started learning to play bluegrass bass. It takes time, but I have faith.
What is your earliest memory?
Elliott: My family lived in Charlottesville, VA. We lived in this house, I don’t know if they were if we were renting or it was a duplex or what but it was a little house in downtown Charlottesville, and we kept our tricycles in the crawlspace underneath the house. And my dad for some reason has this big moose head that was supposed to go on the wall, and it was in the crawlspace under the house.
So, when I’d go to get my tricycle out, I did not want to see the moose. So, I would reach in the door, and drag my tricycle out because I was afraid of the moose. I remember so many things: I went to kindergarten, we built a new house, my parents did road rallies. I remember all that, and I don’t know if that’s unusual to remember things from those early-early years? But that’s probably my first one.
What makes you unique?
Elliott: Let me think on that a second. I think one of the things that makes me unique is
that I don’t have to fit in with a group. Because of that I feel like I never fit in with a women’s group. If you know people that like, all the girls hang out and they go on vacation, that’s not me. I don’t feel like I fit in with that. But I can fit in wherever I am. Does that make sense? Does that make me unique?
I think so. I think it’s a good thing.
Elliott: But sometimes you feel lonely.
Who are some mentors who have inspired you?
Elliott: So, I can tell you the names of all the teachers who inspired me, but I won’t. I remember every teacher I had from first through sixth grade except for my third-grade teacher. But teachers have been huge influences in my life. My mom and my dad. I used to always say my dad: he has his doctorate and he’s a very influential man in our community. But my mom was probably more of an influence on me. I find it interesting that when my sister was caregiving and my mom was living with her, she was so angry at my mom and she and my brother-in-law only remember her as an angry judgmental person. But that was her illness! And my sister says, “Mom was never nurturing growing up," and it’s like, “what house did you grow up in?”. My mom tucked me in every night, my mom… So, my mom had beautiful handwriting, and I wanted to write like her. So, I would sit at the kitchen while she fixed dinner while I was in elementary school and practice writing my name over and over again because I wanted to have good handwriting like her.
She had a high school diploma, but when I was in high school, she went back to college and got a business degree and became the manager of a department store! She served on the school board when I was little, and it was all men back in the 70s, and they would not talk to her. She would try to get in on the conversation and they just wouldn’t talk to her. Every Monday morning, they would have a meeting and all they could talk about was the Sunday Minnesota Vikings football game and my mom didn’t know anything about football. So, she told my dad and he said, “let’s teach you about football”.
So, she learned, and she started jumping in on the conversation and they started talking to
her and they were like “we don’t know how to do these contracts!” so she went to the State Board of Education Conference and learned everything and she was the one on the board that knew how to do everything! So, they’re like “Helene! How do we do this? Helene, can we do that?”, so she became this huge foundation for the school board. I watched my mom blossom while I was growing up through the 70s, which was the liberation, you know, people were burning bras! My mom? She got her ears pierced. It was a big deal. You know, she put highlights in her hair. So, she has been such an influence on my life because I grew up as she grew up.
Was she young when she had you?
Elliott: No, she wasn’t, I don’t mean like she grew up, I mean she… When we moved to Minnesota, my sister was in eighth grade, my brother was in second grade and I was in first grade. And we would come home from school and my neighbor lived across the street, and she was my best friend. My mom would call my dad at work and say, “Is it okay for Sandy to go across the street and play?”. She always had to have that “husband permission." she came from a different generation, and he said “You can make that decision on your own! You don’t have to call me anymore." So, she learned how to be independent, and have her own voice, and I grew up with that, with my mom learning who she was. I think maybe my sister missed that. She was seven years older than me and went off to college while we all grew up and became independent. But my mom was always very affectionate. My sister got locked into that negative mindset and I feel like she shifted back at the end, I think those last two months were good for her.
What are you most thankful for?
Elliott: I am thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because I find hope in every day and know that there is more. And you know what’s weird about that, I think earth is amazing. This planet is my own Heaven...sorry I’m getting emotional. I get up early in the morning and I take a walk and I see the pink in the sky and think “If this is earth, what is Heaven gonna be like?”, I can drive down the road and smell the grass and see the baby calves. I mean everything to me is beautiful, every creation is beautiful. I’ll be sad when it’s my time to leave. But will I? Because I know that what’s coming, we can’t even imagine it. I mean, my family is so important to me but if I didn’t have that hope… I know people who are not Christian and struggled through the pandemic. Because all the fear and the negativity of the pandemic…they had no hope. So, everything was negative and scary and dangerous. And I’m like, “It’s gonna be okay."
What is the biggest risk you have taken?
Elliott: That’s a hard one, because I think of scenarios but then I’m like, “oh no, that wasn’t so
I’m not a person that’s afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I think back to my days with Mr. Brown (former principal at Mount Juliet High School), and standing up for myself to him, because there’s that fear of losing your job, but I think that goes back to my passion. So, I will stand up to the forces that be, and it’s happened multiple times in my life -- bosses, principals -- when I believe something is right and deserves to be done. I take a risk even when it’s somebody that can fire me. I learned that a long time ago.