We said goodbye to a lot in 2011: The Oprah Winfrey Show, Friday Night Lights, Kim Kardashian's marriage to Kris Humphries, and a single Prince Harry. Let's say hello to reflecting on that year with Sarah Yan.
May 17, 2018
Name: Sarah Yan
Hometown: Beijing, China
Corps Year: 2011
Current Location: Jersey City, New Jersey
Current Position: Director of Recruitment and Staffing for Newark Public Schools
Where did you grow up?
I was born in Beijing China and moved to upstate NY when I was 5 years old.
Where do you call home now?
Jersey City is now home.
What is a song or movie that defined the time when you did the corps?
Rick Ross, “You Know I Got It.” I always had a feeling of getting in my car and “suiting up”
What is the name of a student that changed your life?
I had Sade in biology class when she was in 11th grade. One day she got sick in class but I didn’t think too much of it; I later found out that she was pregnant. I would have understood if she felt she could no longer stay in school; however, she stayed as long as she could and came back as soon as she could. She later graduated and is now working as an insurance specialist. We still keep in touch. When I think of Sade, I think of everything she was up against and how she still persevered both for herself and for her family. I always saw so much potential in her and was inspired by her ability to be successful against the many odds she was up against.
“Being a part of TFA gives you access to a huge network of people and opportunities.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned from teaching?
Having been a teacher leading a classroom, I have an understanding of many of the challenges that students are up against – many of which occur outside the four walls of the classroom. As I have left the classroom, I realized that there is a way to maintain connections to students even when you are not their teacher. Today, I work for students to make sure they are receiving a high-quality education through recruiting, selecting, hiring, and staffing exceptional people in our schools and throughout our district. There are so many opportunities in the education sector to continue to impact student outcomes. In my current role, I utilize so many of the skills that I learned from being a teacher. I create contingency plans; I do an incredible amount of work in a short amount of time; I modify my approach based on my audience; I work through sheer exhaustion; I think about students every step of the way.
Why does NJ rock?
NJ is the best of both worlds. When I moved to NJ, I didn’t want the scary big city but I also wanted to meet a lot of people and have exciting things to do. In NJ, I was able to avoid the big city but also have access to it and have many things to do in my neighborhood.
What do you do now?
I am currently the Director of Recruitment and Staffing for Newark Public Schools. As soon as vacancies arise, I look to recruit the best candidates for Newark and to make sure that they are in a position to succeed. Even though my current job is outside of the classroom, it is the greatest honor of my life to continue to serve the community of Newark, and its children in particular, in ways that I could not have imagined during my time in the classroom. In my daily life, I am working on several initiatives and each decision I make is centered on how it will impact students.
“It is the greatest honor of my life to continue to serve the community of Newark, and its children in particular, in ways that I could not have imagined during my time in the classroom.”
What do you value most about being a part of TFA?
Being a part of TFA gives you access to a huge network of people and opportunities. I know that if I needed to, I could reach out to people at TFA and there would be help available. There are also many leadership opportunities that TFA affords to both it’s CM’s and alumni. If you need resources, Teach For America is there.
What do you think is the most important issue in education today?
The most important issue in education today is that there are so many different initiatives and competing priorities in the world of education. Everyone thinks they know what it takes to solve the achievement gap – charter schools, vouchers, the common core – and there are people that do not believe in any of those things. Education has become political and deeply divisive, and we need to find a better and bipartisan way.