In her new job, former special education teacher and assistant principal Sandy Naramore makes dreams come true for children suffering from serious illnesses and conditions.

Back in April, the UAB School of Education selected Sandy Naramore as the Outstanding Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Alumna for 2017. The honor came just four months after she took the reins as executive director of Magic Moments, a nonprofit that grants non-medical wishes for youngsters suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

Sandy Naramore

Recently, Naramore jokingly called the new job her “third act.” She had already spent nearly a decade as the director of Mitchell’s Place, a comprehensive center in Irondale, Ala., for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and 30 years as a special education teacher and assistant principal.

Today, Naramore spends much of her time organizing “reveals” when she and her staff present children with their requested “moments.” Those requests have included trips to the Walt Disney World and Six Flags theme parks, visits with famous athletes and celebrities, as well as shopping trips for electronics to help recipients with their educational needs. Additionally, when she is not busy planning presentations, she is visiting children in the hospital, promoting the organization on local television and radio stations or reaching out to prospective donors.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as typical day,” says Naramore. “We’re constantly meeting with people to make sure we have the funds to provide the children with the moments they requested.”

A Path to Leadership

Naramore enrolled at UAB in 1989 to pursue a master’s degree in early childhood special education. At the time, she taught special education at Cahaba Heights Elementary School in Jefferson County.

“I went to school at night,” she says, “and that was the beauty of it. UAB offered the classes I needed at night so I could keep teaching.”

Naramore graduated in 1991. Then, in 2004, she returned to UAB to earn an Ed.S. in educational leadership. She completed her studies the following year and later became the assistant principal at Greystone Elementary School in Hoover.

Looking back, Naramore credits the educational leadership coursework and internship with preparing her for all of the challenges and tasks that come with being a school administrator.

“People skills,” says Naramore. “That was the biggest thing I learned in the educational leadership program. How to manage people. But I also learned how to manage budgets. As a special education teacher, I had no exposure to the budgeting side of school programs. So UAB did an excellent job of training us.”

New Job, New Chapter

In 2008, she retired from the state Department of Education when the founders of Mitchell’s Place contacted her. Naramore had once taught the couples’ son, and they asked if she would apply for the educational director’s job.

“I observed the facility and met with the families and the staff there, and it was a no-brainer,” she says. “It was an incredible opportunity for me to use my administrative skills and my special education background.”

She later became the organization’s executive director. She thought Mitchell’s Place would be her last job before retiring for good, she says. But in 2016, she had a chance meeting with a staffer from Magic Moments. That meeting eventually inspired her to apply for the executive director’s job.

Today, Naramore says she is enjoying this latest chapter in her career.

“I never dreamed that I would have an opportunity that would just sweep me off my feet,” says Naramore. “It’s a job I don’t think everybody can do, but I think my background in education prepared me for this. It can be sad at times, but it’s so rewarding.”

Naramore, who is married with two adult sons and two grandchildren, says that when she does retire, she wants to volunteer with an organization that helps children.

“As long as children are in my life,” says Naramore, “I’m good.”