Spotlight on Teachers: Sarah Holcombe

How long have you been teaching?

I’m currently in my second year, although I began teaching last year at a charter school (International Leadership Charter High School) in Kingsbridge and left in February 2012 for a teaching position at my current school DreamYard Preparatory High School in the South Bronx. My current school is a public high school and it is a much more supportive, collaborative environment. So, all-in-all, I’ve been teaching for 1 full year (almost exactly) at my current school.

Why did you want to get into teaching?

I felt drawn to teaching halfway through my undergrad experience at Ohio State. I was presented with an opportunity to tutor through the Office of Minority Affairs at OSU, and I really enjoyed working with students one-on-one. I decided to become a Teachers Assistant at college and enjoyed it so much. I also had several teachers in my own high school experience that inspired me, and it felt like I had an opportunity to pay it forward through teaching.

What is your favorite aspect of being a teacher?

I most enjoy the relationships I make with my students. For many of them, school is the most consistent aspect of their lives, and I so value the opportunity to support them academically and socially. It’s also really rewarding when a student struggles with content and then has an “ah-ha” moment through my teaching.

What challenges do you face on a daily basis?

I think there are two aspects to my job that challenge me every day. (1) Classroom management can be particularly daunting in my school’s neighborhood. Many of my students come to high school unprepared academically, which causes behavioral issues in class. (2) Because students come to us unprepared, it is extremely challenging to bridge the gap between basic skills and grade-level content. For example, it is challenging to teach Integrated Algebra to a student that has trouble adding and subtracting basic integers. Even though this is a challenge, it is also what makes teaching in this environment so interesting.

Have you had any unique challenges as a woman?

I have. I feel that as a female teacher, I have to earn my students’ respect more so than many of my male colleagues. Many of my students appear to challenge female authority figures more than male ones. It’s a struggle, but I have a positive relationship with the majority of my students, and I feel that slowly but surely I’m finding my feet every day.

Tell me about the fundraiser you were involved in.

I raised money through an online organization called The website is set up solely for the purpose of teacher fundraising, and it specifically targets schools labeled as “high poverty” status. I raised a total of $2,243 mostly from donations made by family, friends, and colleagues for a SMART Response set.  Here is the post I wrote for the project, taken directly from the website:

“My Students: Do you remember sitting in a math class and not understanding what was going on? So often this happens, and it makes it difficult for the teacher to know who understands and who doesn’t. This SMART Response remote control system I have requested will allow for immediate assessment for ALL students at the touch of a button.

My students are bright, charismatic, and energetic teenagers who reside in an under-resourced, low-income, urban community in New York. They face challenges in their everyday lives that are unimaginable.

These students strive to do well, but many of them have struggles at home that sometimes prevent them from being able to study, do homework, or focus on their academics. Because of this, it is imperative that my students make the most of their education during the school day. This SMART Response system will help them to do just that.

My Project: This system will allow students to take quizzes and polls and report their answers that will convert to data. It will allow for instant assessment, and help clarify trends of misunderstandings.

By utilizing this system, my students will be able to anonymously share their findings, which will help diminish embarrassment or insecurity in the classroom, and improve confidence in their social and academic lives.

This technology will help my students in so many ways. It will engage them in their learning, hold them accountable for their work, and maximize their involvement in the classroom. The benefits my students will see from working with this technology are endless. Please help make this dream a reality!

My students need a class set of SMART Response remote controls to help them check their understanding in Integrated Algebra!”

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