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Orienting Ourselves with First-Year CCDS Teacher Sarah Wagoner

Sarah Wagoner and her students preparing for an experiment.

We asked Middle School teacher Sarah Wagoner a few questions about her first year teaching at Cincinnati Country Day. 

What brought you to Country Day?
I wanted to be closer to my parents; I grew up only five minutes away from CCDS. So, when I decided I wanted to move back to the area from Nashville [where she taught seventh-grade world history and coached multiple sports], I reached out to Hirsch [Theresa Hirschauer, head of Middle School] about a part-time position that I had applied to. Instead, she mentioned there was a full-time opportunity at the Middle School and here I am! I teach sixth-grade health, eighth-grade outdoor wellness, and sixth-grade GIPS (Group Initiative Problem Solving).

Tell us more about the activities your students have done in your classes this year.
One of the most unique things about our campus is the orienteering course. In the outdoor wellness class, the kids use navigation skills to race against each other to see who can complete the course the fastest and in the correct order. The kids really love it because of the competitive nature of the game, and because they get to explore our campus. Depending on the season, we have also partnered with the Lower School to play games and do activities with them, such as maple tapping with Jana Westhoven [Lower School outdoor education teacher].

In GIPS, we do a lot of team-building activities. During the first quarter of the year, the kids loved building bridges using only cardboard and glue…and some of them withstood almost 200 pounds! Other activities focus on building their communication skills, such as the minefield activity where each student must rely on another student to navigate a minefield.

What do you consider the highlights of you first year?
My favorite memories are just seeing kids succeed in my classroom and in athletics. One of the coolest observations is the growth of my sixth-grade students. From the beginning of the year until the end, I can tell how much they have grown up and improved their communication skills. I have also loved coaching [cross country, FAST, and track]. I feel a lot of pride seeing the athletes work so hard and achieve their goals.

What is your favorite thing about the Country Day community?
I love how close the teachers and kids are. I can’t speak more highly of how welcoming the Country Day environment is. Hirsch, along with the rest of the Middle School team, is wonderful at making you feel included, like you have been here for a while. I have also been able to work with such great kids who want to do well and are curious about learning. So, I guess I would have to say that the people are my favorite thing about the Country Day community.

One last question, as the outdoor wellness teacher, what is your favorite hiking experience?
My husband and I recently traveled to Washington and hiked Mount Olympus, and that was spectacular. But my favorite hiking experience was in Italy where I did the Walk of the Gods. We started in Bomerano and ended in Positano. We took the upper level of trails, which meant going up a lot of stairs and hiking the cliffs along the Amalfi Coast. I could not feel my legs afterward!

Sarah Wagoner's entire GIPS class after they finished an experiment.