The Long Beach Unified School District has named Poly High School teacher Sarah Schol as Teacher of the Year.
Schol, who was once an LBUSD student, is an English teacher who has been an instructor here for 20 years.
Inspired by teachers whose passion, creativity and compassion shaped her own education, Schol strives to provide her students with safe spaces where they can engage critically with challenging content. Her lessons are grounded in social justice and challenge students to critique literature as a reflection of past and present societal issues.
“I am constantly encouraging students to break the limits of a singular lesson in order to grasp the import of the ‘big picture.’ This methodology also helps my students to learn that everything we study within the classroom has far-reaching implications,” Schol wrote in her application. “English class is a means to fostering critical inquiry, and everyone needs to be able to think critically in order to be successful.”
During her time as an instructor with LBUSD, Sarah has taught special education classes, non-academy classes, honors classes and special academy classes. She attended Long Beach State for her undergraduate work and Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her master’s degree in English Literature.
Beyond her curriculum, Schol considers her role working with diverse student groups as one of her greatest contributions and accomplishments in education.
She advises the Female Leadership Academy, Black Student Union and Asian-American/Pacific Islander Student Union. Her student groups’ accomplishments include campus and community volunteerism, hosting community forums to bridge cultural gaps and touring Microsoft (by invitation).
“It can be too easy for high schoolers to feel ‘removed’ within a school campus – especially one that houses 4,000 other students – but it is imperative that my students understand that they are not, in fact, on an island,” said Schol.
“They attend a high school that is a cornerstone of education within our community. They might be on campus for only four years, but they will need to learn to be good neighbors, friends and employees for life.”
In 2021, Schol received the Teacher of the Year Award from Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell. She has also received the Educators Breaking Boundaries Award from the Teachers Association of Long Beach for her work in using real-life issues and scenarios to address potentially polarizing topics such as racism, poverty and privilege in American society.
In 2016, Schol was invited to speak at the Better Together California Teachers Summit, where she reaffirmed the importance of helping students to understand and interpret the world around them.
“One of the greatest rewards I find in teaching is seeing my students change and grow from one semester to the next,” she wrote. “They are no longer analyzing to try to impress me or score a higher grade. Analysis has become a normal way for them to experience the world.”