By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Sarah Bradley grew up in Ann Arbor and attended the Ann Arbor public schools. She remembers her first day of kindergarten, walking into Mrs. Clefgard’s classroom at Dicken Elementary, thinking: “This is a big room. ” Meanwhile, an older student peeked into the room and yelled: “Dang, they are small!”
Bradley has been teaching in AAPS for 32 years. She has taught at Wines, Haisley, Slauson and Dicken. For the last 12 years, she has been at Abbot, where she began the Young 5’s program.
Bradley knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher. There was never that epiphany moment; rather, it seemed to have chosen her. Her mother, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and husband were all AAPS teachers.
Bradley will retire at the end of this school year.
What have you loved about working at Abbot, and what will you miss? The supportiveness and caring of all staff towards each other is one of its greatest assets. The caring culture I believe fostered by our principal, Pam Sica. She is calm, real, engaging and personable. She works with teachers, support staff and parents to encourage our school to work through and solve problems and to live together as an educational community. She handles difficult issues and allows us to teach without worry.
Abbot school culture encourages one another. The positive relationships among my colleagues help to mitigate negativity and to create a supportive environment. There is a high standard of caring, academic expectations and dedication. Bingo Night, ice cream socials, Super Science Day, Basketball Jones, and the Walk-A-Thon—among other events—are all fun ways to celebrate our school coming together and to promote our families and encourage student learning. We as a staff enjoy doing these events for our families and students. I have so many fond memories that it is difficult to select just one. I will miss being a part of the community’s everyday life as I move onto new adventures.
What advice would you give a first-year teacher? The biggest help to me was to keep a professional journal. Write down what worked and what didn’t work in the lesson and how to improve it the next time it is taught. Also incorporating interactive modeling into the classroom routine helps teach positive behaviors, gives children clear, positive images of what is expected of them.
Favorite websites: My favorite website is Pinterest for the classroom. I get creative ideas and like to try incorporating them into the classroom as well as at home with my own children.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? Content is important. But I have found that while students will not always remember the content, they will not forget how I made them feel: confident, and with a view of themselves that they can succeed.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is helping students develop confidence in his or her own work. Becoming proud of their own work, accomplishments, and their overall well-being is of the utmost importance. The most rewarding point in the school year is that moment when the whole class becomes a cohesive unit.
How have you spent your summers? My family and I have enjoyed traveling and engaging in educational activities over the summers. We loved to excavate dinosaurs! My husband and I worked for the University of Utah, Museum of the Rockies and The University of Eastern Utah digging dinosaurs. We especially loved working on the Utahraptor site in Moab, Utah. We spent two summers digging bones out of the hardest bedrock on a 6’x20’ ledge in 100-degree weather. Our biggest find was a tooth of the Utahraptor. Holding a large predator tooth in my hand that was approximately 50 million years old was a great thrill.
During my first 12 years teaching, I spent my summers vacation digging dinosaurs, going to NASA Space camp, taking two weeks to study the geology of the Grand Canyon and even a participating in a fun caving class in Indiana. I have loved bringing back great lessons and ideas to my classroom from my summer adventures. For example, in one class we created a cave for students to learn about the geology of caves and earth science.
Lastly, digging the Maiasaur (my favorite dinosaur) in Montana became a wonderful joke between my husband and me. We said that “if we ever have a girl we should name her Maia.” Sure enough, our first daughter was named after the state fossil of Montana!
What do you hope students will always remember about being in your classroom? A frequent compliment that I receive is how calm and caring I am with each student and how respectful I am of their own individual needs. I like to run learning centers daily within the class so I have time to work individually with students. It allows the students choices and to have control of their own learning. Center time instills activities located in specific areas around the classroom where children work in small groups, or they can also work independently.
The students gain ownership of their learning while covering fine/gross motor skills, social skills, literacy, mathematics, creativity, penmanship, sharing and language development. Center time is a safe place to make mistakes. Running centers is also a great way to encourage parent involvement in the classroom. When parents volunteer, they have a sense of investment in the school, which is a great feeling for all involved.
How do you plan to spend retirement? I plan on retiring to a life of picking apples in the fall for Frosty Apple Orchards in Dexter, fixing up our house after 20 years of neglect, volunteering in the schools, and spending my winters downhill and cross country skiing with my family. Summers will be spent with family and friends on the lake with days of fishing, swimming, boating and relaxing. A dream of ours is to create a warehouse where we would be able to sale artistic, craft, and handmade Michigan products of underprivileged individuals on the web.