Profile, video, and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Sarah Dominick was born in Wyandotte and grew up in Farmington Hills in the house that her mom had grown up in.
After graduating from Farmington Harrison High School, she went on to study biology at the University of Michigan. Her initial plan was to go on to medical school, but a work-study job at the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum set her on a different path. In this job, she had her first experience working with young children as an educator. She was hooked.
Dominick finished out her bachelor’s degree in biology and then went on to be an AmeriCorps volunteer with the National Civilian Community Corps. During this program, she had the opportunity to work in a first grade classroom just outside of Sacramento, California. Inspired by the students and teachers she worked with, she went on to pursue teaching. She received her master’s in Elementary Education from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, as part of the Boston Teacher Residency Program.
From there she went on to teach in the Boston Public Schools for 11 years. Just over two years ago, she returned to Michigan. She lives two miles from Bach with her husband, Cameron, who teaches at Greenfield Elementary in Birmingham, their daughter, a 4th grader at Pattengill, and their son, a kindergartener at Bryant.
This is her second year teaching at Bach.
Although she has only one sibling—a brother who lives with his wife and kids in Plymouth—Dominick has a large extended family. Her mother is one of seven and her dad is one of eight, so she enjoys spending time with her many aunts, uncles, and cousins, in addition to her parents, grandma and brother.
In her free time, she also likes to be outside, read, go for a run or eat at a great restaurant. She loves spending her summers traveling and going on adventures with her family. Her favorite place to be in the whole world is near Lake Michigan.
What is your fondest memory of being in second grade at Woodcreek Elementary in 1985? My fondest memory of second grade is my art teacher who traveled room to room with his cart. He was kind and funny and I always looked forward to his time in our classroom.
What inspired you to become a teacher? When I was an AmeriCorps member, I worked in a first grade classroom at F.C. Joyce Elementary School in North Highlands, California, near Sacramento. I didn’t know much about teaching back then, but I knew I was working with an incredible teacher. She was adored by her students. She was the perfect balance of structured and fun. We had many students in that class that faced tremendous challenges and she made them each feel important and valued. I loved the time I spent in that classroom and the successes I had with students. My experience encouraged and inspired me to become a teacher and work with early elementary students.
What’s the best compliment anyone could give you? That I’m kind and friendly.
In your two years in AAPS and 14 years of teaching altogether, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? I think the most important thing I’ve learned about teaching is the importance of building a community in your classroom. We spend a great deal of time with our students (sometimes more than with our own family!), and it’s so important to really know and understand them and create a space where they feel valued and safe.
I think the most important thing I’ve learned about learning is that it looks so different for every student. As teachers, we have to be willing to reflect, adapt and adjust our instruction (all of the time) if we want to reach the different learners in front of us each day. I’ve also learned that in order to reach the different learners in my class, I have to find ways to engage them and make them excited. This is not always easy, and it takes a lot of work and reflection on my part.
Describe an average workday. I’m a morning person, so I often get up early (before 6) to do a little school work, catch up on email, and (most importantly) drink a cup of coffee in a quiet house! My husband leaves before me due to his long commute, so I take our son and daughter to school. We leave the house around 7:30 and I drop them off at before-school childcare. I usually get to Bach around 8 to prepare for the day. Once the school day begins, I don’t think I ever stop moving! The day goes by so fast! When it’s over, I usually leave fairly quickly to pick up my kids. Once I’m home it’s all about my family: homework, activities like soccer or dance, dinner, stories, and bedtime. After our kids are in bed, my husband and I clean up from the day and get things ready for the next one. We usually relax for a bit and watch a show while we both do some work for school. I usually try to go to bed fairly early to get ready to do it all again the next day.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? Hang in there! You are important and you are making a difference! This will get easier!
What’s the happiest part of your day? When I get home and see my kids.
Apps you can’t live without: Bloomz for communicating with families, Epic for the classroom.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? I wish I would have known then how important it is to find a balance between work and home. I find this job incredibly rewarding, but also incredibly exhausting at times! I’ve learned that I have to take care of myself in order to be the best teacher I can be.
How do you keep students engaged? I keep students engaged by sharing my own interest and enthusiasm for the content we learn about. Books make me really happy, I’m fascinated by nature, and I love math. I’m genuinely excited about learning and I let my students see that.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The connections and relationships formed with students. One of the things I have loved about teaching first and second grade is that I get to watch my students grow up after they leave my class. It’s the best feeling to have former students stop by to see me or wave to me in the hall.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? That we do so much more than just teach. We do a lot behind the scenes to support students and families in many different ways, in addition to planning and teaching our lessons. I also wish that everyone realized that teachers are always working to be better at what we do. We look for and welcome meaningful ways to improve our practice.
How do you recharge? By spending time with my family, doing something outside, or spending some quiet time alone. The best thing for me when I’m stressed or overwhelmed is to go for a run.
What is unique about working at Bach? Bach is really nestled right into the Old West Side neighborhood. I think that makes us really unique. We’re also so close to downtown Ann Arbor. We can take a lot of walking field trips and easily access different resources around the community.
How do you spend your summers? I feel so lucky that I’m off during the summer with my husband and kids. We like to travel, hike, camp, play at parks, work in our garden, and take advantage of all the fun that Ann Arbor has to offer! Last summer we swam in Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and the Atlantic Ocean! Next summer we’re planning a National Parks trip to Colorado and Utah.
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting thing about my professional life is that I’m beginning to feel settled as a teacher in Michigan—and in Ann Arbor. Changing districts and states can be overwhelming, but now that I’m in my second year with Ann Arbor Public Schools, I feel like I can better navigate the district and get more involved with different professional opportunities.
Personally, I just ran the Detroit Marathon a couple weeks ago and I’m super proud of that! I worked hard to train all summer and it feels good to have accomplished that goal.