Teacher Feature: Ms. Jennings
For our first Teacher Feature, we caught up with Sarah Jennings, Middle School Science Teacher. Ms. Jennings comes to CMI with five years of teaching experience, a passion for international education, and a lifelong desire to help students develop a love of learning. Below, she answers questions about her first week teaching at CMI and her background in education.
What was the best moment for you during the first week of school at CMI?
We did SMART goals in the first week, which are challenging even for adults to do. These are goals that have to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound. Through doing that activity, I got to hear about the huge goals that these students have—whether it’s going to Yale or Harvard or owning a small business. One student explained that he wants to become a multi-millionaire… and then give all his profits to charity. Some of the goals are more interpersonal or social; one student wanted to make a friend by the end of her first week of school.
I want to make the connections in class to these goals, and to follow up with them on what they’re doing to achieve them. I see science as a way for students to explore what is really interesting to them.
In class, we use Global Thinking Routines, which give students the space to make a connection between their personal goals and what is happening in the world around them. Global Thinking Routines entail asking the three why’s — Why is this important to me? Why is this important to my community? Why is this important to the world?
When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
I used to work in the nursery at my church, and I knew I loved working with kids. In college, I majored in elementary education right from the get-go. Day one, I declared my intention to be an educator. In the program I attended, I was in the classroom doing observations and working with kids early in my freshman year. I spent my free time working with kids as well, volunteering in after school programs, working with homeless kids, doing SAT prep classes and equine therapy. Between what was required of me in classes and how I was choosing to spend my free time, it was clear what I wanted to do.
School was always challenging for me. I wasn’t a good test-taker. So I can really empathize with kids who have a lot of anxiety around school or who struggle in class. There aren’t enough teachers out there who really see kids holistically, and that’s something that is really important to me.
What were you like in middle school?
Oh gosh. I was so quiet. I was painfully quiet and pretty insecure. I was athletic and played soccer and lacrosse and ran track, and that was where I felt at home and most capable. Homework and sports—that was all I really cared about.
Tell us about a mentor or a role model you’ve had.
I’m currently doing my Master’s in International Education at George Washington University. One of my professors there, Laura Engel, is a mentor for me. She’s the reason I went to GW. She used to be a classroom teacher, and she has applied what she learned as a teacher in really interesting ways. It’s inspiring. She is great at connecting theory and practice. So many professors give you the content, but she really thinks about how to teach. She’s the one who taught me about Global Thinking Routines.
What is something you value about working with families?
I love working with families. It’s one of my favorite things about being a teacher. I really believe in building that respect and two-way communication. Setting that up from the beginning is just so important for strong relationships and academic success. If I had a little more time, I would be on the phone calling all the CMI families to tell them positive things about their children right now!
I want families to know that I welcome them into the classroom. I want them to feel like they can be a part of what we are doing here, like they can meet with me whenever they have questions or concerns. They are their children’s first and last teachers, and I just think the connection between parents and teachers is so crucial for academic success.
What is something we might not know about you?
I’m really passionate about science. My dad was a marine biologist, and I’ve found that science aligns really well with my academic passion, which is international education. It’s so interdisciplinary, and a bridge to developing truly international thinking. Science forces you to consider the implications of things, to think outside yourself. It challenges you to think bigger, to determine cause and effect, and to examine the different angles.