Q&A with the Deans: Sarah Bates


Lauryn Holden

Dean Sarah Bates in her new office.

Maddie Winter, Editor-In-Chief

When did you start working in education and how long have you been at Poly?

I started working in education right after I graduated from college. After spending two years teaching English and history at a boarding school in Connecticut, I moved back to Florida to work at an independent day school there. I took a few years off from teaching to pursue my graduate degree and worked with children in Tanzania and refugees in South Africa. Louise Forsyth hired me as her leave replacement when she went to Europe to start writing her book–I can vividly remember our first conversation. A one-year, interim position has now turned into 7 incredible years at Poly.

What drew you to the dean’s position?

I loved my work as a freshman dean. “The office” became a sacred space and allowed me to explore in depth the reasons why I became an educator in the first place. It was a hard choice to remove myself from the history classroom, but I like to think I’m still teaching, just in a different way. Learning the college process is a lot of fun, too!

What’s your favorite thing about working with students?

Watching you all grow! To have seen you as freshmen, in all your amazing awkwardness, grow into confident and self-assured young people by the time you walk across the commencement stage is an incredible gift and privilege.

What are your goals for this year?

Being a positive agent of change for the Poly community.

How is high school different than when you were our age?

Smart phones and social media. We had cell phones but we actually called one another to hang out. My social interactions were entirely face-to-face or voice-to-voice. The academic and social pressures that you all face are not entirely different than when I was in high school, but they come at a force, speed, and frequency that is exponentially greater.

What’s your favorite hobby?

I don’t think I have any “hobbies”, per say, but there are things I love to do when I’m not at school: yoga, reading, lots and lots of travel, people watching and thinking about what their stories are.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I’ve been so fortunate to have many amazing friends and mentors in my life. I’ve collected a lot of their wisdom throughout the years; these have stuck with me (and I’ve often bestowed on many of you!): “You can’t control how other people will react.” “Embrace the awkwardness.” “Put on your own oxygen mask first.”

What 3 words would your best friend use to describe you?

I went right to the source! She says: compassionate, honest, insightful, and resilient. 🙂