Think back to when you were a student. Who was your favorite teacher? Was it the one who stood at the front of the classroom and read from their notes? Or maybe it was one who was passionate about their subject matter, making it apparent through their body language and tone and the way they related to the students? More than likely you loved the latter one. But being that teacher can be difficult, especially after years of being in the classroom with 30 students at a time (currently the cap in public schools is 33). That was Sarah Grant’s reality before she joined GAC as a second-grade teacher. “Saddened, I would ask myself at the end of the day, did I even interact with that one student? Did we even cross paths?”
Sarah spent nearly 10 years teaching in the public school system before coming to GAC. Her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia gave her the knowledge she needed, but the drive to be in the education field has always been there. She has taken every opportunity to teach, beginning as a pre-professional teacher at the end of her sophomore year in college and working her way up to a 4th and 5th-grade teacher in a public charter school in Decatur upon graduation. Learning didn’t stop for Sarah. She went on to earn master's and doctoral degrees from Mercer University, starting the program the day after she graduated with her bachelor’s. Because of her early exposure to the teaching field, she knew that she had found her calling and couldn’t wait to continue investing time and effort into becoming a better teacher.
Teaching has always been a puzzle that Sarah has tried to better understand. In her doctoral program at Mercer, she studied teacher longevity. The question she asked herself is, what motivates teachers to stay in the classroom for 10, 20, or 30 years? Statistics show that 60% of teachers leave the profession within the first five years. She hopes to uncover the secret for why they stay, but part of it she feels she understands just from being a teacher at GAC, where the teacher retention rate is much higher than in public schools. “All the teachers have very high efficacy at GAC. This is in part because they know they can make a difference. You can walk into every single teacher’s classroom and hear them praising or thanking a student. That is not something I had witnessed as a collective front elsewhere.”
Sarah is a “yes teacher”, making her the kind of teacher you wish you had. She is always willing to try new things, especially if it means her students can benefit. While the students might get the same mini-lesson in a math class one day, the lesson application will look a little different depending on which group the student is in. Because of the placement testing Sarah regularly conducts, she is able to tailor each activity, getting each student the exposure they need based on their strengths and weaknesses. “Testing and data are important, but they are just one measure. The mission of GAC gets at the whole child, not just test scores. That is so unique here.” Also unique is the way in which academic rigor and moral development are enmeshed. “One of the most meaningful aspects about teaching at GAC is watching the students apply the moral development skills we learn during Bible throughout the school day. You are able to see students working in their math center and collaborating with their peers and showing respect. That is equally important and as rewarding as seeing them grow academically.”
Sarah’s teaching range is remarkable, as she has worked with students who were at risk of not meeting state standards; special education students; gifted students in the International Baccalaureate program; and students in the lower and upper elementary grades. “I have loved all of the experiences I’ve been given. While I think the classroom is where I will make the most impact, a very long-term goal would be writing curricula and helping teachers write and implement curriculum to their advantage. Lots of teachers are given curriculum and they don’t know how to adapt it to meet their needs or their students' needs.” Sarah has extensive experience with curriculum integration and even has a Project WILD certification. This is a program produced by UGA that helps teachers learn how to incorporate STEM and STEAM activities into everyday learning experiences.
Service outside the classroom has been a big part of Sarah’s life. “As a student, I volunteered with the YMCA as an office assistant. I worked for Graceway Recovery Residence, a women’s crisis center. I probably volunteered for 200 hours while also being in school.” Sarah has continued to volunteer long after her college days; she and her husband have served for years in the infant to Pre-K program at Buckhead Church and as small group leaders for newly married couples. Service will always be a part of her life, and whether it’s at her church or in the classroom, Sarah knows she’s found a place where she can be her true self.