Soaring to New Proportions

Former Dallas Zoo, Wildlife Show Supervisor Spreads Wings to Career as MasteryPrep Instructor

Brenda Sanchez’s favorite MasteryPrep lesson is “ratios and proportions.”

“I introduce the lesson to my students: ‘Congratulations, you’re graduating. The school wants to build a statue of you, but we need to make sure we have the proportions correct. Now that your statue is so awesome and popular, the school wants to make action figures of you, so we need to scale you back down.’ I love teaching ratios and proportions and discovering those engaging angles to connect with students.”

Sanchez is an ACT and SAT instructor with MasteryPrep, but before choosing a career that prepares students for college readiness, she spent eight years with the Dallas Zoo as a supervisor and presenter, delivering programming that conveys the Dallas Zoo’s mission of engaging people, saving wildlife, and creating a better world for animals.

That interesting career fact is often an icebreaker when Sanchez begins class. “Before joining the MasteryPrep Team, I worked at the Dallas Zoo as a presenter for the bird show. Birds are a big passion of mine, so don’t be surprised if I toss in animal facts as we soar through our ACT prep course adventure together,” Sanchez informs her students. “I absolutely love connecting with students so that they can reach their goals. The ACT is an important stepping stone to the dreams we set for ourselves, and I am so excited to be a part of their journeys and create an environment that is engaging and empowering.” 

Sanchez earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Texas A&M University in 2012. She always had a goal to work with animals and began as an intern for the bird show at the State Fair of Texas. That internship helped land her a job in 2013 at the Dallas Zoo as a zookeeper and wildlife show specialist, training, presenting and caring for animals associated with the zoo’s wildlife show. Through her eight years with the Dallas Zoo, Sanchez was promoted to Supervisor of Animal Encounters, scripting and programming shows such as “Wonder of The Show” and “Rainforest Rendezvous Macaw Flights.”

“The purpose was to engage and inspire people through up close encounters with animals, and I gained a lot of experience being in front of people through my years at the zoo,” Sanchez said. “There’s no greater feeling than when you see people’s faces light up because of what you taught them.”

At the zoo, Sanchez took a course on “Living & Learning with Animals” by Dr. Susan Friedman, department of psychology, Utah State University. Friedman actually started her research in Applied Behavior Analysis with children who have special education requirements, and that course and interaction with Friedman, Sanchez said, helped inspire her in 2021 to make the career change to education.

Sanchez’s first job with MasteryPrep was to serve as one of 27 virtual instructors for a seven-week SAT Concordant Camp prep program to help 3,000 rising seniors across 30 high schools in the fourth largest U.S. school district – Miami-Dade County Public Schools – graduate on time with an SAT concordant score. “I was nervous, but I did a lot of training and shadowing with MasteryPrep instructors that I was ready for the big stage,” Sanchez said. “I made the class engaging; my students interacted back, their scores and performance improved as the classes went on, and I knew right away that I was in the right place to make an impact for these kids.”

Sanchez said she begins each new class by telling students her career background. “It’s an attention grabber; I tell them that I sat in that same chair needing a college degree to take care of animals. Then I show them a picture of an owl with a true/false question – an owl can turn its head 360 degrees. I get a lot of Yes’s and No’s; it’s false by the way. But then the interaction kicks in, and we are ready for a fun learning environment.”

About MasteryPrep: Founded in 2012, Baton Rouge-based MasteryPrep provides mastery-based college readiness services and resources, such as for the ACT and SAT, to more than 2,000 schools and districts nationwide. In addition, MasteryPrep has helped more than 1 million low-income students prepare for the ACT and SAT at no cost to the student. Nationally, MasteryPrep is the preferred ACT and SAT prep provider of the Council for Opportunity in Education, expanding college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Pacific Islands, and Puerto Rico. MasteryPrep is ranked among the Inc. 5000 “Fastest Growing Companies”; featured by “Entrepreneur 360”; and selected among the “Growth Leaders” by Louisiana Economic Development for two years in a row.

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