Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Outside Voices from the Inside: Sarah Andersen

Today's teacher interview is someone I have had the privilege of getting to know over the past couple years. Sarah Andersen is a high school English teacher in Clio, Michigan. I first met Sarah at the launch party for Carrie Harris's debut novel Bad Taste in Boys two summers ago. Since then I have attended a few conferences with her and I follow her amazing blog, YA Love. Sarah's commitment to making all of her students lovers of reading is something I aspire to and am happy social networking has allowed me to continue to learn from and collaborate with her.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @yaloveblog

How long have you been teaching?
I'm finishing my 6th year.

What initially drew you to a career in education?  
My parents told me that I should be a teacher for a variety of reasons, but I didn't really think it was for me.  I wanted to be a journalist or a psychologist for a long period of time.  In tenth grade we were reading Julius Caesar and I was one of the few students in class who actually understood what was happening, so I ended up helping quite a few of my classmates.  They ended up understanding the play with my help, and I started thinking that maybe I could be an English teacher.  It was during my senior year when I took both AP English and 12th grade honors English at the same time that I really realized that I wanted to be a teacher.  I loved English and wanted to be like my teacher, Mrs. Spear.

What motivates you as a teacher?
My students motivate me every day. I'm constantly trying to make our lessons engaging and fun, while still making sure I drive the lesson home. I know I'm on the right path when a student uses one of our vocabulary words during a discussion. They let me know when something's effective directly and indirectly, and if I'm not getting one of those cues then I know I need to try harder. Right now I have two Honors Sophomore Seminar classes, so I have been trying my hardest to make sure they're prepared for the AP track and eventually college.

What has been your best classroom memory thus far?
I don't think I have one classroom memory that stands out as the best.  I appreciate little moments like when a student tells me all about a book he/she just read. One of my students this year read Between Shades of Gray for the umpteenth time and then read Out of the Easy. She couldn't stop raving about them, so I told her she should contact Ruta Sepetys via Facebook or something. She did, and when Ruta replied my student was over the moon. She came into school practically in tears she was so excited.  It's moments like those that stay with me for a long time.

What do you want the future of education to look like?
I'd love to see teachers get their autonomy back.  I'd love to see students reading a balance of YA and the classics. I'd really love to see our students offered more choice in general.  And most importantly--I would love to see less standardized teaching and testing.

What makes you stay in the classroom?
I stay in the classroom because of my students. I'm a passionate teacher and it's contagious (in the best kind of way).  I want to mold my students into avid readers and excited learners.  I may get frustrated with everything going on outside of my classroom, but once I'm in my room with my kids, I can let all of that go and focus on what I know they need.

 What do the words “use your outside voice” mean to you?
Those words mean we need to think outside the box in regards to teaching and share what we're doing.  We need to be vocal about all of the opportunities Twitter and conferences like MRA and NCTE offer us. If more teachers were getting involved and reaching out to other teachers, I think many of us would be better for it. I know I am.

1 comment:

  1. Beth -- Thank you for putting a spotlight on Sarah. If people want to know what's right about education today, they can take a look right here. Sarah is in the early stages of her career, and she's already a nationally-known literacy leader. She keeps students in the forefront of her work but uses her strong reflective capacity to articulate "big picture" positions that contribute to the on-going policy dialogue.