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“Education is about learning to think and one of the best ways to develop that ability is learning to write. If you effectively express your thoughts in writing, you graduate a clear thinker.”
Sarah Harden
English Teacher | Northwest High School (NJ)

Raised on a Georgia dairy farm, this ‘94 Cornell grad landed in a North Jersey community straight out of college. She’s the teacher no kid wants to take but the one no kid ever regrets having.

Why have you chosen to continue teaching high school English language arts all these years?

If my  students are gonna make it in life, they must learn how to think and write.  If I don’t accomplish that, I’ve failed them. Developing good writing skills matches word with thought and is an arduous journey that takes commitment from both student and teacher.

 

Sarah Harden working on the farm she grew up on.

 

Growing up on a dairy farm taught me a TON about hard work. The daily requirements to maintain a farm—feeding, cleaning stalls, 5 a.m. milkings—trained me on subjects like  sacrifice and responsibility. A good education requires the same kind of commitment, day in and day out.

Having good writing skills changes everything. I don’t care what your background is, if you can write you’re no longer an unfortunate statistic.—Sarah Harden

What are you trying to accomplish with your students?

Good writing. Every week we are writing. It’s like going to the gym—a writing gym. No good writing comes without lots of mental blood, sweat and tears.

 

Sarah Harden helps two students with their work on a computer.

 

Good writing involves a process. I walk them through that process and give them feedback all along the way.

In addition to the basics, we hone their writing voice. Each student’s potential to write is unique—as unique as their personality and their perspective of the world.

How does bulb help you?

Having digital portfolios for each student has really helped me to see all their stages of writing in one place. They have a bulb collection for each piece with a series of pages for all the phases in their writing process.

 

Screenshot of student's collections on bulb

 

When I want to see one student’s work across the entire semester or school year, I don’t have to search through various assignments in our school’s LMS. Instead, it’s all right there in a single portfolio.

It must be rewarding when you see great progress.

I am always proud when my students receive journalism scholarships or win essay competitions but my greatest satisfaction is when a student comes out of the most difficult of backgrounds and exceeds everyone’s expectations. There’s nothing more rewarding as a teacher than to give a student the opportunity to radically and positively change the trajectory of their future.

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