EMU names longtime educator Sarah Armstrong director of MA in Education program

Sarah-1Sarah Armstrong, a longtime public-school educator, will help teachers earn master’s degrees in her new role as director of the MA in Education program at Eastern Mennonite University. Most of the teachers continue full time in the classroom while studying on weekends and during summer vacation. Some enroll in online courses.

Armstrong, who started on Jan. 5, 2015, succeeded Don Steiner, who retired last summer. She is responsible for the 90 graduate students on the home campus as well as the 46 master’s students at the EMU center in Lancaster, Pa. Her duties include teaching four courses a year.

Previously Armstrong was at the University of Virginia (UVa) in Charlottesville, where she worked with school superintendents and education administrators to provide professional development programs and graduate courses for practicing teachers. She was senior director for K-12 professional development in the School of Continuing and Professional Studies and then director of programs for the Statewide K-12 Education Advisory Council at UVa’s Curry School of Education.

Armstrong’s first contact with EMU was when she was assistant superintendent of Staunton City Public Schools from 1999 to 2007. “Our principals would actively seek teachers who had graduated from EMU,” she said, “telling me that they were highly effective and hit the ground running.” For teachers who wanted to be reading specialists, she and her staff asked them to enroll in EMU’s reading specialist program.

Over the years she taught two graduate courses at EMU – “Teaching Diverse Leaners” and “Research on Risk and Resiliency.” She also mentored students who were completing their action research studies at the end of their graduate program.

“I’m delighted to have Sarah with us,” said Jim Smucker, dean of EMU’s School of Graduate and Professional Studies. “She brings lots of energy and experience in administration, and she’s very connected to schools throughout Virginia.”

For the past 10 years, Armstrong has worked closely with superintendents and educational leaders around the state and is acquainted with efforts to improve teaching and learning. “I see potential in offering focused courses and certificates that are unique – or somewhat unique – to EMU,” she said. An example is the proposed Restorative Justice in Education program which she will help implement.

Armstrong is particularly interested in recent research on the brain and how it affects learning in the classroom. She plans to teach a graduate course on neuro-education next fall.

The new EMU administrator got her start in education at Lynchburg College in Lynchburg, Virginia, where she earned a BA in elementary education and an MEd as a reading specialist. She went to UVa for doctoral studies, graduating in 1986 with an EdD in educational leadership and administration, with minors in curriculum and reading.

Armstrong started her career as a classroom teacher and reading specialist for four years in Amherst County Public Schools in Virginia. Moving into administration, she supervised programs for reading and gifted students in Amherst for 10 years.

She then moved to Nelson Public County Schools for eight years, where she was executive director of instruction and personnel, followed by executive director of personnel and student services.

From 1996 to 1999, Armstrong was principal of Burnley-Moran Elementary School in Charlottesville.

For the past seven years, she has also worked as a consultant in neuro-education. “I believe working in schools and school districts around the country on ways to improve teaching and learning,” she said, “will help me stay current in practice and bring valuable ‘stories’ to my job at EMU.”

Article by: Steve Shenk
Photo by: Lindsey Kolb


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