Interview With New Teacher Sarah Holmes

Echo: What did you do before you came to Mt. Greylock?

Ms. Holmes: I did two different outdoor educator-type… One was specifically an internship with the Student Conservation Association, which is about forty minutes from here. It was my first experience in this area of Massachusetts, and that was my first experience with teaching, right out of college. It was part environmental education and part trail work, which was all throughout Massachusetts state, which was quite fun. I liked the outdoors part. I did a kind of similar but mostly fully educational part with some hiking involved with Nature’s Classroom at the Colebrook location, which is about an hour and a half from here. There was a variety of things we did there, but one of the things was teaching classes, and we would choose different subjects, and mostly I did biology. Within those times, I did go to grad school for biology. My thesis was on the difference between toxic and nontoxic cyanobacteria. So I did graduate school for biology, and during that time I also worked at the small aquarium called the Ocean Explorium, where it was another kind of type of educational experience. It was really fun, and we had this really neat, it was called Science on a Sphere, and I wish there was one closer to here because it would be a great place to go for a field trip. It’s a 3D globe that four projectors project onto and let you see weather in almost real time occurring on the globe. So those are basically, the Outdoor Education, Student Conservation Association and Americorp, Nature’s Classroom, and graduate school were mostly what I was doing before this, and substituting, was actually my last experience with teaching, so this is really and truly my first year.


Echo: What first got you interested in biology?

Ms. Holmes: I feel like it was always kind of there. In high school I was, it was kind of one of those where you’re pushed into a certain group, like ‘oh, you’re really good at English, or history,’ and I excelled mostly at English and history. I wasn’t bad at my science classes, but those were the ones where I’m like, I’m going to be a writer, that’s what I’m going to do. Originally I went to school for English and writing, intending for a journalism aspect, but as I was there, I didn’t quite enjoy my classes as much as I had enjoyed the newspaper class in high school, and I missed science. I can kind of say it was due to one book, I believe it was called Journey of the Pink Dolphins, and it was about the pink dolphins in the Amazon River, and there’s a kind of a science writer who’s written a few books about things, and this one in particular was like a mix of the writing and the science and research, and I was like, “maybe I could do something like that.” I kept the English major still, so I added on biology and stuck with that through school. Once I graduated, I was like, “maybe I’ll go more towards that, and I can always write as I’m doing that.” I’d say mostly that book, but in general, I grew up loving FernGully and any kind of animals, so it was always there.


Echo: Where did you go to school?

Ms. Holmes: For undergrad, I went to Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, and for graduate school, UMass Dartmouth in North Dartmouth, Massachusetts.


Echo: What attracted you to Mt. Greylock? How did you hear about the job?

Ms. Holmes: Well, last year I substituted here and it was one of the first places I subbed for. Nancy McMullen was the one who interviewed me for making sure like the substitutes aren’t kind of crazy or anything or what have you, and then we kind of had a good first impression, and then anyone I had subbed for also had a good impression there. So that was how I was introduced to the school, but it was definitely more than like, even after the first day I think I recorded in my little notebook I was keeping that I was like “definitely a place I would go back to.” The atmosphere was great, it wasn’t like everyone was crazy in the classroom, even, because, as a substitute most of the stories you get are, ‘all the kids are going to go crazy, you’re going to have to yell at them’ and I’m like, I can’t yell, so it was just overall a nice experience. When I was, in the spring, looking for full-time appointment, there was biology, and I was like, well, that’s my full degree, and I have one or two more courses for education-related. Most of it was all, I know the biology, I know that, and I’m almost done with the education masters to kind of have both of those, I can actually use them, and hopefully bring some of my stories and experiences from grad school out more, kind of like the research aspects that were more, ‘this is what you might actually be doing with biology if you continue on this path.’

Echo: What’s been the most difficult part of your job here so far?
Ms. Holmes: Just feeling like I’m pulled in every direction, which at least, it sounds like that’s normal, I’m not like failing at everything, but knowing that I need to have plans for every day, for each class, each class is at a different, not necessarily different spots, but maybe different levels of understanding, and being able to adapt that, so that I’m not leaving any individuals out or any classes behind, and then at the same time having the multiple sections of honors and college prep together and the AP course, and then just all the other little things as far as just being in a school and being part of a larger environment go, like meetings and all that, that balance of time. Time is the one thing I wish I had more of.

Echo: How about the most exciting or enjoyable part?
Ms. Holmes: I like when I can actually have conversations, kind of like we’re having now, with small groups of students. Although a lot of times we do have to do the kind of lecture part, even then sometimes if I can share stories or you guys have stories that connect to what we’re doing, I like finding those connections. I know some of the subjects we do don’t necessarily lean towards other stuff relevant to my life, but that’s why I want to share and I’m hoping that there’s some interest I’ve seen even certain students seem to get more interested depending on what subject we’re in, and I like seeing that and being able to hopefully kind of encourage that in individuals. Also I’m excited, I haven’t graded them yet, but the cell organelle projects. I’m already looking over some of them, I’m really excited to grade those and allowing some student creativity into the education part. I like trying out those new projects and having ones go well, I’m excited to see that happen.

Echo: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of school?
Ms. Holmes: I like when I can make myself actually relax. I like reading. I actually did finish a novel over Thanksgiving break, I had the time to do it then. That is always one thing I need to try myself, to be like, take a break, or read for a half hour. In order to not feel like, ‘oh, I have this whole novel I’m trying to read,’ I’ve actually been reading comic books, which I know most, no, I know a lot of adults who read comic books, but since they’re shorter, I feel less stressed by my casual reading. I’ve been reading Batman recently, so those types of things I’ve been doing, and then just trying to stay somewhat active. It’s been a little cold to run. When it’s not iced over and everything, hiking would be the big actual energetic activity I will do.

Echo: One more classic Echo question: Red Sox or Yankees?
Ms. Holmes: Red Sox, because I’ve actually been to a Red Sox game. I’m originally from central New York, which can go either way, there’s a lot of mix there. My dad’s a Yankees fan, but my boyfriend’s Red Sox and his whole family is, so I’ve kind of been like, I’m going to go with them since I actually have to live with him and watch the games with them. But I don’t have any specific love for any teams, I will admit that.


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