An alumna’s reflections on her career and education, and on turning over a new leaf
by Sarah Kratz ’07
This summer has been one of transition for me. After teaching in Parochial and public schools for nearly a decade, I am making a very exciting career move to teach at the Flint Hill School in Northern Virginia, a private, co-educational, college preparatory school. While interviewing with the leadership teams and current faculty at Flint Hill, with its child-centered philosophy and emphasis on diversity, individualized instruction, and future-ready technology, it became clear that this school was going to be a perfect home for me.
How did this new beginning come about? My teaching career path began as early as my Stony Brook Days. I graduated from SBS in 2007. Immediately afterward, I attended Smith College and graduated in 2011. I majored in Psychology and minored in Education, which qualified me to teach elementary school in Massachusetts. I have since taught in Washington DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Denmark and received my M.Ed. from Marymount University.
I did not know that I wanted to teach as a freshman in college, but I was fascinated by the way children and people grew, learned, and developed their passions. After taking enough classes in the education department, my advisor mentioned that I was equipped to student teach during my senior year, and I took advantage of that opportunity. Little did I know then that the school where I completed my student teaching, the Smith College Campus School, employed teachers who were passionate about and trained in much of the literacy instruction derived from the Teachers College at Columbia University and in the teaching techniques found in the Responsive Classroom philosophy, an approach that promotes social and emotional learning by focusing on intentional language and interaction. It is no surprise that over the next decade, I would find myself at many training sessions and professional development sessions devoted to both of these programs. My career path has recently led to the area of school leadership. I plan to seek out a new administrative graduate program here in Northern Virginia and to continue my studies, in hopes of becoming a school administrator in the next decade.
“I don’t think I could have become an effective educator had I not witnessed great teaching and the strong teacher-student relationships here during my time at Stony Brook.”
I’ve learned many lessons in my years as a teacher. At the beginning of my career, I was very open to suggestions and criticism because I knew that the profession was one that could never be mastered. There is always room for growth (just one turn in trying to fix the copier will humble you quickly). I was amazed by how much humility the job required. I have learned that for me, my relationships with my students are my priority 100% of the time. I do not just teach reading, writing, and arithmetic—I teach kids reading, writing, and arithmetic.
The most valuable lesson I have learned is this nugget from the director of the school leadership program I’m attending: She said that when you are in a position of leadership or working with a staff, you should always assume that other people are doing their best, trying their hardest, and approaching a situation with the best of intentions. This has radicalized the way I speak with other people and approach conflict.
My favorite voice in education is Thomas J. Sergiovanni. Through many Biblical metaphors, he emphasizes the importance of a moral voice in a school, which reminded me instantly of the School’s motto, “Character before Career.” The verse for my career and for my life is Matthew 7:20, “Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” The fruits we hope to produce by committing our lives to Christ is listed in Galatians, and as I try to pour these qualities into my teaching practice, I notice the relationships I have with my students and even the parents of my students flourish.
I don’t think I could have become an effective educator had I not witnessed great teaching and the strong teacher student relationships here during my time at Stony Brook. It is impossible to forget the time when Mr. Johnson assembled a reading list and specifically added one of the books with me in mind. I will always chuckle reliving the time my brother and I broke a vial of mercury in our home and called Mr. Linzee for advice. As much as we remember the faculty at the Brook teaching us to be servant leaders, at the time, I did not have the ability to see that they were first and foremost
serving us as their students.
In a lot of icebreaker conversations with aspiring school leaders, we are asked to share our why—as in why we want to lead students and teachers alike one day. It’s hard to answer without a smile breaking on my face and wondering if my fellow SBS graduates could answer this question for me. I strive and pray to be a principal to students one day like Jeff Adams was to me and my classmates. He made us feel special. He helped us discover our individual strengths. He sacrificed his time to encourage us, pray with us, and love us, and his example of shepherding and faith is what I strive to emulate as I teach kids.
Sarah Kratz graduated from The Stony Brook School in 2007. She currently teaches at Flint Hill School in Northern Virginia.