Sara is a Professor at the Curry School of Education at UVa. She has spent the last two decades conducting research on elementary school classrooms with the goal of developing roadmaps for administrators and teachers making decisions for teachers and children. Her research examines the interactions between teachers and children and among the students’ themselves. The work pays close attention to school and classroom experiences that support students’ interest in learning, development of self-control, and social and emotional skills. In particular, she has had a steadfast commitment to examining ways of improving school experiences for students most at risk for school failure. Sara recently completed several large scale studies funded with multi-million dollar grants from the U.S. Department of Education, National Science Foundation and private foundations. (See socialdevelopmentlab.org.)
Sara was drawn to work in contemplation through her collaboration with Chip Wood and Pamela Seigle at the Center for Courage & Renewal. Together, Sara, Chip and Pamela are working to address a pressing problem in education: stress in the adult community of schools. Contemporary schools are facing pressure and strain at unprecedented levels. National standards require large scale shifts in the ways that teachers teach and principals lead. Previous research shows that the degree of relational trust among the adults in a school is a key variable in the success of school reform initiatives and their ability to raise student achievement. Principals, teachers and other school personnel need to collaborate in new and creative ways. Chip Wood and Pamela Seigle have been developing an intervention called Leading Together: Building Adult Community in Schools that is based in reflective and contemplative practices. Leading Together is designed to support school leaders by offering opportunities to reflect, renew their commitment to schools and improve the relationships at their schools. Sara is leading the research component of the project. The work will provide insight (and scientific basis) for how contemplative practices can be used to help schools build relational trust.
Sara teaches Learning and Development and Educational Psychology courses. She directs the graduate program in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science at the Curry School of Education and mentors doctoral and masters students. For pleasure, Sara enjoys running and spending time with her two children.