Far from home, a Radford-trained teacher finds her calling
Sarah Chase M.S. ‘18 has an unquenchable thirst for teaching.
She’s not content, at the moment however, with being in one setting, or teaching a particular subject.
Nope. She’s on the move, imparting her knowledge and utilizing the skills she gained at Radford University to students around the world. She began teaching chemistry at a high school in Virginia, but her love for education has given a desire and a vision to spread knowledge around the world.
She first taught in China and then Korea before taking teaching positions in Colorado and Virginia. The most recent stop on Sarah’s world teaching tour is a return Seoul, South Korea.
Sarah first visited South Korea with her mother and sister when she was a teenager. Her mother is Korean and the three embarked on the nearly 7,000-mile flight from their home in Towson, Maryland because they wanted to learn more about their culture, Sarah explained. She met a cousin on the trip who was a teacher in Seoul and their conversations about education “sort of planted the idea of ‘oh, I can be a teacher,’” she said.
Sarah made a few more trips to Korea while she was an undergraduate and worked some there with her cousin. “It was an early teaching experience for me,” she recalled.
Sarah was a pre-med student at the time and, after graduating and earning a degree in chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park, she returned to Korea to teach at an academy for a year.
The experience of teaching that year “sparked something,” Sarah said. So much so, that she decided to go graduate school, and chose Radford University’s Master’s in Science in Education, Curriculum and Instruction program based on “its reputation of preparing preservice teachers for the field,” she explained.
Once she moved to Korea for the second time, Sarah took on numerous teaching positions. She taught English to adults at an academy and taught chemistry at an international high school while serving as an instructor for business conversation to employees at three different companies.
“But a lot of things have been changing with the pandemic,” Sarah said in a Zoom call from her apartment in Seoul’s Gangnam district.
The COVID-19 global health pandemic put a halt to many in-person classes. “So, my work,” she said, “has gone through several iterations.”
Work slowed for Sarah, but it did not stop. She persisted. Her resilience led her to a brief internet advertisement searching for a tutor for a child living and learning with special needs. Sarah did not, she admitted, have much experience working with special needs students, but she had received training through courses and student-teaching while earning her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction at Radford University.
“I sent my resume, and I actually got the job,” Sarah recalled. “I think it was because of my certifications and master’s degree and from Radford.”
So began Sarah’s unique journey of tutoring a middle school student with special needs. A girl whose true intelligence many people did not fully understand. A girl who “had a lot more going in her mind than people think,” Sarah said. “She was just not showing anyone.”
In the beginning days and weeks of the tutoring sessions, Sarah had many questions. A recurring one was: “Is my teaching really working?”
“I had no idea if any of the work I was doing was of use to her,” Sarah confessed.
The process was arduous and the progress slow, but Sarah’s education and training gave her solutions.
“Usually, I try to meet a student on their level,” Sarah said, referencing an educational approach that was instilled in her by faculty in Radford’s School of Education and Leadership (STEL). “At Radford, I was always encouraged to understand the full context of each student, understand where they are emotionally, understand where they are developmentally… understand all the complexity that’s going on in a kid’s mind and body.”
At first, the process was slow, but Sarah’s determination along with the teacher preparation she received at Radford, began making a difference for her student.
During her Radford experience, Sarah devoted herself to educational practice, immersing herself in her courses and student teaching while also collaborating with faculty in research. She attended conferences and presented research for the first time, and worked with STEL Professor Kristan Morrison, Ph.D., on content analysis of a publication used for years by unschooling families, which examined “whether and how unschooled children experience a social justice curriculum” that seeks equality between cultures, ethnicities, genders, classes and sexualities.
At Radford University’s Spring 2018 Commencement ceremony, the name “Sarah Chase” can be found three times in the graduation program for her exemplary work as a graduate student. She won the Outstanding Student award for Curriculum and Instruction, won the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International VA Scholars award and was the winner for Teachers of Promise in Secondary Science – Chemistry.
“Radford is part of the reason I am here [tutoring in Korea] today,” she said. “The faculty there did such a great job of preparing me academically and teaching me the skills I needed to be a good teacher wherever I am.”