Team Member Spotlight: Sarah Howard

We would not be able to fulfill our mission without our staff, a group of professionals who intentionally work across difference, are experts in their field, and care deeply about young people and their postsecondary journeys. 

Each month, we’ll highlight a member of our team by “passing the mic” to hear directly from them about their work and purpose. This month, we are highlighting our Director of Professional Learning, Sarah Howard. 

What do you do at the Network for College Success? 

I am the new Director of Professional Learning. This is a new position in our organization charged with maintaining high-quality learning experiences for our partners and expanding the range of learning opportunities we offer.

How do you help high school teams build on the work they’re doing and make improvements? 

The answer is in the question. One of the unique things about NCS is that we approach schools with the knowledge that they are already working to improve and they have efforts underway. Too often, outsiders try to help schools with “new” initiatives, assuming they are starting from a blank slate. NCS brings processes and learning that start with the wisdom of the practitioners in the building.  

What about the culture of NCS empowers you to show up the way you do?

I have been fortunate to be part of the NCS team for many years, through the evolution of our equity work. That has allowed me to go on my own journey of self-examination and explore how growing up white in the United States has influenced my worldview. NCS has given me the space to begin unlearning ways of thinking and acting that are harmful to my colleagues of color and to me. 
As a collective of former practitioners, NCS also has a culture of deep respect and compassion for what our partners are doing every day, coupled with our imperative to change education to better serve Black and Latinx young people. I believe our culture empowers us to show up with the right balance of support and push.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Hearing educators talk about how they have changed their views and their practice and strengthened their connections with young people makes all the effort worthwhile.

Can you share a memorable moment or achievement during your time with NCS?

In 2009-2011, NCS schools were in their own CPS network called Area 21. The CEO at the time referred to our approach as “Kumbaya” in comparison to the data-driven approaches being hailed at the time. After a year of focusing on research-based indicators over test scores, our schools showed more growth than the district average in 9th grade on track, GPA improvement, and graduation rate.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or interests that you enjoy pursuing?

I love spending time with my daughters and grandchildren, especially outdoors, whether it is on a family adventure, or just hanging out, catching up, and goofing off.
Want to meet other remarkable staff at NCS? Visit our staff directory page here.