Leaders to Learn From: Sarah Peterson, Associate Director of the Upper School

Associate Director of the Upper School Sarah Peterson also teaches math to Upper School students and has worked at UPrep for 19 years.

  • Faculty and Staff
  • Leaders to Learn From
Nancy Schatz Alton, Writer/Editor

This school year marks Sarah Peterson’s 19th year at UPrep, and her fifth year as Associate Director of the Upper School. She started as a Middle School math teacher, has spent time managing Community Conversations and working in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office, and she still teaches Upper School mathematics. She’s well known on campus for her ability to listen deeply, and her office is a welcoming space for everyone.

Tell us about your role as the Associate Director of the Upper School

Collectively, Ken [Jaffe] and I are charged with steering the ship of the Upper School. I oversee the non-athletic co-curricular program, which includes clubs, advisories, and assemblies. I oversee grade level deans and advisors. I am also part of the discipline trajectory. When students violate our community expectations, sometimes they come see me to talk through what’s gone wrong for them. Students also come to see me when they need support dealing with difficult situations. I think that I have a reputation for listening to students deeply. I like to help them think about what it means to be part of our community. I really love working with students—they’re so brilliant. Young people are seeing the world in a way that is really different from me. I love to be around them so I can understand our world in a different way. I feel fortunate to have relationships with our students so they can see the world in a different way, too. And students are fun, too!

What do you love about the UPrep community?

I think UPrep places a real emphasis on actively teaching students what it means to be in community. Being in community is so important and it’s such a hard thing to do. A big part of my job is holding up a mirror to our students when they are doing things that are less inclusive. It’s hard for students when they know a practice isn’t inclusive; sometimes they think that the positive they get from the experience outweighs the experience of those not included. For example, I work with student government and every year we discuss whether or not they should run a candy gram event before winter break. I tell them, “you love candy grams, but not everybody loves candy grams.” We talk through concerns, like the fact that I send one to every student and for many students that’s the only one they get, or that sometimes people write mean things. Instead of telling students they can’t do something, we really explore all of the different consequences with them and they decide what to do. Sometimes it takes many discussions and three iterations to get something right, but I’m proud that we do a lot of intentional work to help students understand what it means to be inclusive.

What do you think it is important for prospective families to know about UPrep?

UPrep is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). We stand out when it comes to the people, time, and funds we have committed to DEI. We have two full time and two half time positions in our DEI office. For a school our size, that’s absolutely unheard of, and a lot of our faculty and staff make use of funds available to do professional level DEI work both on their own and out in the community.

What do you enjoy most about working at UPrep?

I love the people that I work with—both the students and the faculty. I’ve also had the opportunity to do a lot of different jobs during my time here, and I’ve loved having the opportunity for growth.

How do you relax and unwind?

Well, we have a six-year-old and a ten-year-old, so relaxing and unwinding is not something my spouse and I get to do a lot of! We have a cute Havenese puppy, too. I like to bullet journal—Sunday night or Monday morning I draw out my calendar for the week and add fancy handwriting and doodles; the artwork is a creative outlet and the planning is how I think things through. While I was recovering from a knee injury, I started doing TRX strength training, which I found really helps me unwind. I pretend that I’m extroverted here at school and I am not—I really need a lot of quiet to recharge. I go home sometimes and I do not talk to people—including my family—for the entire time after I leave here and come back the next morning.








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