COTTONWOOD – It’s not uncommon for Sarah O’Donnal to spend her spare time with work on her mind.
As lead to the school’s mentoring program, O’Donnal spent several days this past summer training eighth graders for the new school year’s sixth grade orientation.
Says Kelli Rhoda, her principal at Mountain View Preparatory in Cottonwood, O’Donnal “goes above and beyond and she puts her students first.”
“Sarah’s strengths are that she has heart and she leaves her heart print on every child that crosses her path,” Rhoda says.
O’Donnal is in her sixth year at Mountain View Prep, but only her second year in the classroom. Though she’s wanted to teach since she was a young child, O’Donnal started her career in education as the school’s attendance secretary.
“I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in second grade and my amazing teacher helped me get through a very tough time in my childhood,” O’Donnal says. “I love that I get the opportunity to impact the lives of children just as my teacher did so long ago.”
O’Donnal says that teaching is her calling.
“I belong in the classroom and would not want to be anywhere else,” she says. “I love challenging my students and helping them to realize their potential. I enjoy figuring out what will help each individual student learn best.”
To Rhoda, O’Donnal’s impact in the classroom is clear “every single day as she works to establish relationships with her kids as well as instilling in them high expectations for student achievement.”
“Her caring nature made all who entered our office feel welcome and at home,” Rhoda says.
Verde Valley Newspapers: Explain your teaching style
Sarah O’Donnal: “I’m a facilitator of learning.”
“I am just a guide in the learning process,” she said. “Much of the learning in my class happens not with me standing up in the front of the class but with my students investigating and exploring on their own.
“When a child learns something new and knows that they were able to figure it out using prior knowledge along with some new information, it is the most wonderful thing to behold.”
VVN: Tell us something notable about your career
O’Donnal: “I am always in search of trainings and courses that I can take in order to be a better facilitator of learning,” O’Donnal says. “In my three years of teaching, I have accumulated over 300 seat hours taking classes to improve my teaching. I tell my students that I am learning right alongside them. I want them to understand that we never stop learning.”
VVN: Do you have a favorite quote?
O’Donnal: “Maya Angelou said 'I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’”
Did you know?
O’Donnal is also Mountain View Preparatory’s WEB coordinator. But not the Internet. At Mountain View Prep, WEB is a mentoring program for students entering middle school.
“Eighth grade students are chosen to be leaders [and] mentors for incoming sixth graders,” she says. “The eighth grade students are trained, over the summer, to work with sixth graders throughout the school year and help them with the difficult transitions that occur once students enter middle school.
In her first year as the program’s coordinator, she has “already seen the effects that having a mentor has had on my former students.”
-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42