Sarah Burgess’ path from teacher to principal


Sarah Burgess (left) with Damien Kopkas (right) dressed as senior students on Halloween.

Melissa Lim, Contributing Writer

Sarah Burgess has been a math teacher for eight years and two of those years are currently being spent at Solon High School (SHS). She is now taking a new step into a new professional field, becoming a principal.

Burgess didn’t always know she wanted to be a principal. It was teaching which she found a passion for initially.

“My sixth grade math teacher made math a lot of fun and numbers seem to be very easy for me, [which is why I wanted to teach math],” Burgess said.

Burgess originally taught at Euclid High School for four years, then transitioned to Cleveland Heights for two years, until eventually, she found herself at SHS.

During Burgess’ first year teaching at SHS, the principal, Erin Short, had a conversation with her since she was new to the building, which was what sparked her interest to become a principal.

“Just about being a good role model and building good relationships with my students throughout the year,” Burgess said.

She went on to compare the difference between a teacher’s job and a principal’s, and explained why she’s interested in becoming a principal.

“[As a teacher] I get to see 120 students a day,” Burgess said. “I feel like being a principal, you can affect your entire school and the entire school community, so I just want to try to have a positive impact on more kids than just the ones I teach.”

Burgess enrolled in classes at Cleveland State University to become a principal before the 2018-2019 school year started.

“I have to have 30 credit hours which accumulates to about 10 classes and that’s including the internship and the practicum,” Burgess said.

With the added course load, Burgess juggles having a family, being a teacher and officiating college basketball.

“From a young age, I was able to stay organized and learn about time management and when you’re in college playing division one basketball, you basically have two full time jobs,” Burgess said. “You’re an athlete on top of being a student so I think being organized and time management are probably the two best qualities a leader, teacher, anyone with that type of job can have.”

Burgess explained how playing division one basketball in college takes up a lot of your time and sometimes can easily add stress.

Damien Kopkas, SHS colleague to Burgess, thinks because of her personality she will succeed and become a very meticulous principal.

“I think she can be successful, whenever you have a desire to do something and have a drive to become something higher in your field, once you attain that, you tend to do a good job with that,” Kopkas said. “I think she’s very well suited to be a teacher, but I think she would be an outstanding principal as well.”

Kopkas thinks Burgess will enjoy and accomplish her road to principal.

“She’s fair,” Kopkas said. “She listens to the students in her classroom. She does a nice job maintaining control in her classroom. I think those things would translate well to an administrative position. I think you’ll get a lot of stuff that comes across your table that are difficult situations to deal with so it’s important to be consistent and fair with whatever you decide to do in those situations so I think she’s so a good job with that.”

Burgess’ current student, Megan LaBelle, also emphasized this sentiment.

“She’s always confident in putting herself out there to let all her students form a good relationship with her so her students can feel more comfortable about getting help when needed, and she can pay more attention to get where her students need to be,” LaBelle said.

Burgess expressed she wants to become a principal when the 2019-2020 school year starts.

To Burgess, becoming a principal is not just a job, but a goal that she is striving to reach. Both roles require people willing to do what’s best for their students.

“…you want to have a high achieving school, a great school culture, a great school climate…and you want to work as hard with your teachers as much as they want to work with their students,” Burgess said.