We are delighted to announce that today’s inspiring individual interview features educator and advocate Sara Hines. Sara grew up in Washington DC and earned a PhD in Special Education from the University of Maryland. She has taught at public and private schools in the DC area, was a professor at Hunter College in Manhattan, and currently serves as the Lower School Head at the McLean School of Maryland. Many students at McLean have learning differences, ADHD, or had school anxiety when they entered. Read more: Camp Spring Creek: As Head of Lower School at McLean School, we’ve read that your personal motto is “Children first!” You’ve been described as “vibrant” and “driven.” What is it about your work on behalf of children with learning differences that fills you up with such inspiration?
Sara Hines: I find students with learning differences incredibly interesting and filled with potential. I think that allowing any student to reach their full potential is a very rewarding and important aspiration. Each child, in my opinion, is unique, and educators are responsible for investigating those unique gifts and qualities to design accessible instruction. Teachers must be creative and flexible in designing instruction.
CSC: Tell us more about the importance of early intervention for children with learning differences. For instance, for the parent who is reticent to have his/her child “singled out,” what advice might be good to keep in mind?
SH: The older the child, the harder it is to remediate in academic as well as social areas. A child with LD in a regular classroom often develops self-esteem issues that are hard to reverse. Also, to compensate for, or pretend that they do not have academic issues, children develop maladaptive approaches that are hard to unlearn. At our school, parents usually tell us that their child “is a different person” after entering McLean.
CSC: What were your own classroom experiences like as a child? Did you struggle in a traditional setting, were you nurtured above and beyond by a particularly gifted teacher, did you cruise right on through, or struggle daily? We’re curious how whatever you experienced as a youth informs the work you do today.
SH: I was a strong student but I usually earned “fair” in effort. I day-dreamed all day and only paid attention when I needed to respond. I never was engaged or motivated in school until I earned my PhD. I believe that I had several learning differences that were undiagnosed because I was able to do well enough in a very traditional, language driven curricula. There were 36 students in my class in Elementary School, so I was able to stay under the radar. It is only through my studies in LD that I realized my very uneven learning profile.