“The most valuable lesson I learned at Transylvania is that I have unlimited potential to both achieve anything I want personally and to make an impact in this world.”
Sarah Harcourt Watts: The Student-Teacher Connection
"I vividly remember standing in (education professor) Dr. (Angela) Hurley's office while she convinced me that I could go to any graduate school I wanted—that I would excel at Harvard."
Hurley was right. At Harvard Divinity School, Sarah Harcourt Watts ’08 completed a master's degree in theological studies while also taking coursework at the graduate school of education. She wanted an education that would not only enhance her teaching skills but also enhance her ability to connect with students—and she got it.
"I went to Harvard to study religion as a category of cultural diversity for students," Watts explains. "Teachers should strive to make education culturally relevant to students of various ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. My studies added depth to my understanding of the purposes of education and how education fits into larger society. Classes in both education and religion were essential for me. Aside from bringing an expertise in religious diversity to my teaching, my coursework was immensely interesting and personally fulfilling."
After Harvard, Watts didn't leave the classroom; she led her own. Today, she teaches first and second grade at Sumner Academy in Gallatin, Tenn., near Nashville, where she continues to reference her own unique path as she shapes the paths of her students.
"My students have this amazing sense of awe and curiosity about the world that keeps my days interesting and varied," Watts says. "The most rewarding aspect of my job is creating a classroom environment that acts as a little microcosm of the world—as a caring and cooperative community." That desire for community can be traced back to Watts' undergraduate days.
"I am reminded of my experiences at Transylvania every day of my teaching," claims Watts. "The emphasis on relationships in the education program influenced my teaching. I am intentional about helping my students develop positive relationships with each other."
She adds: "I love seeing the students work together to accomplish their goals."
Her own goals have been accomplished through her ongoing desire to both learn and teach with compassion. "My education professors led me to think deeply about the purpose of education and how my own purpose of education should inform every decision I make," she says.
From Transylvania to Harvard, and now sitting on the other side of the desk, Watts' purpose of education never wavered—to understand not only names, dates, and theories, but the lives of the faces looking up at her when she calls roll in the morning.