Alumni Spotlight: Sara Fliehman Levinstein

Alumni Spotlight: Sara Fliehman Levinstein

By Sara Fliehman Levinstein
Tell us about your path after graduating from the MSEd program.

I began as an English teacher in September 2009 at Williams Prep School of Medicine, a small school on the South Side of Chicago, at the same time as my classmate from the MSEd program, Kathleen Ryan.  It has been an extraordinary journey with Kathleen the past seven years, as we have navigated the intricacies of being successful English teachers together, utilizing collaboration and the reflective practices we learned from Northwestern.  I am honored to serve in multiple leadership positions at Williams.  This year, I am the English Department Chair, Curriculum and Instruction Support Coach, and a member of the Instructional Leadership Team.   

How did the MSEd program prepare you for the work that you're doing now?

What I appreciate so much about the MSEd program is its careful balance between theory and practice.  I love that I have sound philosophical, sociological, and psychological reasons for why I make pedagogical decisions, as well as the tools and resources to ensure I am keeping abreast of new developments in the field of education. I learned throughout the program to ground my practice in research about instructional and planning strategies that work. I was empowered in the MSEd program to not only rely on external research but also on research I conduct in my own classroom and school.  

What brought you to teaching?

I was most inspired by my Butler University undergraduate English professor Dr. Marshall Gregory.  His courses were some of the most challenging courses of my academic career, and I felt my mind expanding each time I was in his presence.  The thing I most appreciated about him, though, was his continual focus on the art of teaching.  In his philosophy of teaching, he wrote, "[Teachers] must know within themselves where to find, and how to activate, for example, that sensitivity which lets them know when a student is in trouble, that kindness which allows them to be supportive and not just critical, that generosity that shows them how to temper justice with mercy, that honesty which invites them to admit their own limitations, that courage always to insist on making students do their best work, and that empathy that lets them see in the students before them the young persons they once were as students themselves."  He has since passed away, but his spirit will stay with me for the rest of my life. 

What are your goals for the future as an educator?

My new leadership role as the school's Curriculum and Instruction Support Coach has solidified my interest in curriculum design and the ways in which we ensure that each and every student is engaged in his or her learning.  I plan on going back to school to receive a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction; where that will eventually lead me I do not know, but I am always invigorated by learning more and more as I progress in my career.

When you aren't teaching, how do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy reading, trying new restaurants, and entertaining my friends and family. 

Is there an issue in education today that you are particularly passionate about? Why?

I am particularly passionate about the lack of equity in terms of opportunities afforded to low-income and minority students.  With the help of my English department, I raised $9000 so that our students could receive novels this year.  It is unjust that my school has to fight for resources that students just a few miles away in other parts of our city are guaranteed.  I plan on focusing my future professional learning on how to affect systemic change through legislative education advocacy.  

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