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Corps Member Spotlight: Sarah Messick

Sarah Messick (Phoenix corps 2015) was a regional Sue Lehmann finalist

Sarah Messick

By Marlena Sauceda

February 13, 2017

Sarah Messick was one of the nominees in Phoenix for Teach For America’s Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellowship, an organization-wide program that serves to recognize second-year corps members who have shown exceptional growth in their classrooms.

Sarah grew up near Seattle, went to college in Boston, and came to Phoenix through Teach For America’s Equity Fellowship, which allowed her to build relationships with other corps members who applied to the corps early. She joined TFA because she wanted to have a direct impact on some of the social problems that she studied in college.

Sarah, along with 3 other regional applicants and the Phoenix regional finalist, were recognized at our recent Education Summit. The process requires corps members to take a deep look into their classrooms, and reflect on their work in a number of ways, including asking their peers and students for reflections. You can see some of her student’s thoughts in this video.

Sarah attended a session at the Summit that featured a panel of corps member and alumni leaders talking about ways to make an impact beyond your classroom, and then encouraged everyone in the room to identify a problem their students face and brainstorm ways to solve it.

Sarah Messick tutors a group of students after school.

Sarah is currently collaborating with other teachers at her school to develop a gifted program. While she’s still unsure what that will look like, she thinks it’s important to provide all students with the level of support they need to continue to be successful.

She’s hoping to find support from TFA in the connections that she can make with alumni who have experience designing gifted programs and implementing them in their schools.

“What we’re always looking for is connection with other corps members,” Sarah said. She said she appreciates how the professional development she received from TFA has evolved over the last 2 years, especially since the Education Summit included a lot of opportunities for collaborative problem-solving.

“I knew I would like teaching, but I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it as much as I do. I have so many days when I’m exhausted, but I think, it was so much fun,” Sarah said.

She says her biggest success so far has been helping one of her students grow throughout the year, both academically and personally. At the beginning of the year, this student entered Sarah’s classroom not reading, and barely speaking. Now, her reading skills have grown from a pre-K level to a 2nd grade level in just a few months.

“What we're always looking for is connection with other corps members”

Sarah Messick (Phoenix corps 2015)

The most noticeable change, Sarah says, is her growth in confidence. She’s proud of the fact that her entire class rallied around pushing this one student to succeed. Sarah’s been able to build a classroom culture that allows her students room to learn from their mistakes, and gives them time to connect with each other on a more personal level. Collectively, they came up with the class motto that hangs above their door: “In this classroom, nothing is impossible.” 

Sarah says her students are thriving most when they’re happy and feeling successful.

“All my kids have a different definition of success. But they can all see something challenging, work to figure it out, and in the end, they’re successful,” she said.

Sarah feels confident that she’ll be staying in the classroom for a while. She thinks it’s important to be there for her students, and would like see the students from her first year of teaching, who are in 4th grade now, off to high school.

“I think it’s important that kids have someone who knows them around, and it’s nice that they’ll still have our community,” Sarah said.


The Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellowship is held every year to recognize outstanding second-year corps members for their work in the classroom. Corps members from every region are invited to apply, and then each region is tasked with determining who their regional finalist will be. This year’s Phoenix applicants were:

  • Ashley Mason, EAGLE Maryvale, 5th Grade
  • Colin McIntosh, Copper Canyon High School, Algebra 1 & 2
  • Eliana Jerez-Givre, Pioneer Preparatory School, 2nd Grade
  • Sarah Messick, Pioneer Preparatory School, 3rd Grade

And the Regional Finalist was:

  • Jacquelyn Delgado, Guerrero Elementary School, 5th Grade Math