Health Educator Spotlight: Sandra Sotiriadis
Sandra is Health Connected’s Outreach Coordinator and one of our fabulous Health Educators. She graduated from the Health Education program at San Francisco State University in 2014, where she majored in Community-Based Public Health and minored in Human Sexuality Studies. She has combined her experience in both fields to become a sexual health educator. During her undergraduate education, Sandra worked as a Peer Health Educator and Teacher’s Assistant. She is in the process of completing her Master’s degree in Sexuality Studies, and plans to get a Master’s degree in Education in the future as well. Sandra oversees all of our digital communications and supports our outreach to education professionals for our training and technical assistance programs.
Why did you get into health education?
I majored in health ed and I really liked the idea because health means something different to everyone. We all need to learn what it means to be healthy and how to take care of our bodies. I really like being that person to help educate people, and I continue to learn new things everyday as well. Sexual health in particular is so important in life and is not something that a lot of people want to talk about or are comfortable talking about. Since I don't get easily embarassed talking about these topics in a candid way, I thought this was a great career for me.
What is your favorite program to teach and why?
When I first started working here I really liked working with high schoolers, but in the past year I have really enjoyed teaching the middle school program. I think it’s my favorite because for some students it’s their first time talking about sex in such an open and honest way. We give them really straight forward answers to all their questions and even the kids that think they know a lot still learn so much, which is really fun to be a part of.
What is the best question you’ve had to answer from one of your students?
It’s hard to think of one specific question because I get SO many but I think one of the most common ones is "Why do girls moan while having sex?" I get this question at every single high school I go to and I think we get this question so often because teenagers are probably accessing pornography and are really being influenced by media in general. I tell my students that pornography is unrealistic and usually very exaggerated, but that people can make sounds for different reasons. Some people scream on roller coasters and others don't, some people laugh when they are tickled and others don't. Oh, and I also love getting questions like: "When will I see you again?" :)
What is one message around sexual health you would like to send to young people?
One message I would like to send out to young people is to not be nervous to talk about sex, whether it’s with their parents, friends, or partners. We have this idea that sex is supposed to be awkward or that it's taboo and I feel like that is because people don’t talk about it as much as they should. I think it’s such a normal part of our life and if students talk about it more they will get more comfortable with it, resulting in better health choices.
What is your favorite part about teaching sex education?
My favorite part about teaching sex ed is really interacting with students and also reading their evaluations. At some schools I can tell students are very excited to have me there and at other schools you don’t really get that so much. However, I always see in the evaluations how they really felt about having our program. My evaluations also help me hear from the students that are not so vocal in class and prefer to write how they felt instead.
Did you have sex ed as a teen? If so, how was it for you?
I did have sex ed as a teen, I believe in 7th grade. I had a program called “family life” which consisted of us watching a birth video and talking about very basic stuff. In 9th grade we spent about two weeks on sexual health which was comprehensive. however nothing stood out or was memorable. We never learned anything too fascinating and the programs I had were nothing like the ones we have here at Health Connected.