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IB graduate turned IB educator

If one were to walk the halls of International Academy in 2001, and then return again ten years later, it would appear as though Sarah Clancy never left. After graduating from Kalamazoo College, Sarah returned to teach at the very school where she received her IB diploma. Sarah provides her insight about the IB from a student and teacher perspective. 

My name is Sarah Clancy. I graduated from the International Academy in 2001 and attended Kalamazoo College. I graduated with a BA in English and German. I moved to Florida and worked in youth ministry for four years before returning to teach at my alma mater in 2009. I earned a Masters in Teaching and Learning with an emphasis in curriculum from Florida Southern College. I now teach World Literature 9, IB1 and IB2 English (Language A).

What was your favorite aspect of the IB programme?

While our program is full diploma, and our short-term goal is that our students earn their diploma, the program is designed to be more far-reaching and to encourage life-long learning. I hope that students leave the IB programme armed with the tools to tackle not only the academic rigors they will face, but also, and in my opinion more importantly, to embark upon the adventure of life. When done well, the IB programme teaches interpersonal communication, the importance of well-being (in all aspects), principled behavior, and open-mindedness, all of which will ultimately lead to successes far more important than a high GPA or salary.

What led you to teach specifically IB?

As a member of the 2nd graduating class of the International Academy, we knew we were involved in something ‘special’. Though the IB had been around awhile, it was new to us in the metro Detroit area and some of the best teachers from the area high schools left the familiar AP program and challenged themselves with this curriculum that engaged us at another level. Though I always knew I’d be a teacher, those who taught me inspired me to teach IB because each and every day they embodied the learner profile themselves as risk-takers, thinkers, and caring individuals who encouraged us to do and be the same.

I work alongside some of those same people today; they continually amaze me with their commitment to what it takes to be a successful IB teacher: dedication, curiosity, and genuine love for their students’ well-being. I strive to provide the same inspiration to students through my love for learning and eagerness to share that passion with them.

Do you find yourself reminiscing on your own IB days while watching your students interact and learn? Can you specify a moment?

I often joke with my students that I seem to have blocked out my IB experience because I don’t recall the words ‘internal assessment’ or ‘individual oral commentary’ when they ask me what I wrote my Extended Essay on or from which text my passage was taken (it wasn’t that long ago!). I know I did them – but those are not what I remember about my IB experience. What I remember more so is the collaboration of learning that took place between teachers and students as we navigated the uncharted waters together. As we enter into program changes for Language A : Literature in the fall, I look forward to embarking on a similar journey of learning with my students; I hope they will remember the learning process as fondly as I do.

What is your favorite topic to teach within your English class?

Our Part 3 genre is drama, which we teach in the senior year. I love the active learning that goes into students’ engagement with this particular art. Learning and passion elevate when students can visibly and audibly employ the genre’s conventions through movement, performance, and dialogue. I attended a workshop by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the fall (2010) and use many of those strategies – insult games, real-life connections to characters, visualizing imagery to create scenery, tableaus as pre-reading activities, and acting companies – to develop students’ willingness to take risks and get up of their feet to allow the art of drama to come alive within the classroom. This is when the real learning kicks in!

Do you have any advice for IB alumni looking to go into the teaching profession?

Teaching is the perfect profession for the life-long learner, one of the reason we are drawn to the IB programme in the first place. My students consistently challenge me to learn more and I want to provide in-depth responses to their inquisitive nature. I’ve learned “I don’t know, let’s find out together” is a perfectly reasonable response once in awhile. There is always more to learn and the nature of this profession is to explore that, both on one’s own and with one’s students. There are all kinds of clichés about teaching; the truth is its reward lies within that moment when my passion ignites a fire in the student which drives him or her to approach something he or she has not tried before. It’s in those wild guesses and exploration that learning occurs – what a beautiful process of which we can be a part.

Do you know of any IB alumni who now teach for the IB? Share your stories with us at alumni.relations@ibo.org.