Alumni Spotlight:
Sara Yellen

March 04, 2022

For Sara Yellen, who attended MMFS from 1997-2003 when it was a small elementary school known as Mary McDowell Center for Learning, MMFS is a family affair. Sara is the daughter of our own Fran Yellen, Middle School Administrator and Director of Afterschool. Now a teacher herself, Sara credits her experience at MMFS with wanting to teach. “My teachers had such a big impact on my life. I want to do for others what they did for me.” Sara recalls teachers Sarah Crowley and Alice Mangan (now an MMFS parent whose daughter Noa is in the Fox Room): “They were always just so warm, so loving. They made me feel safe and welcome. But honestly, I think all of my teachers at MMFS made me feel that way. I loved them all.”

Sara graduated from Winston Prep, and earned a Bachelor’s in Childhood Education at St. Francis College right here in Brooklyn. “It was the right place for me. It was small, and people were nice.” After college she got her first official teaching job subbing and working for a preschool in Manhattan. Then COVID hit, and she got furloughed. But she didn’t let that stop her. “I took the philosophies and curriculum that I had been working with and became a private homeschool teacher,” explains Sara. “Teaching three-year-old twins during the pandemic was definitely tough. But I knew I had to take charge of my career, so I did.”

Now that distance learning is a fading memory and students are back in schools, Sara has started working for a preschool where she will receive onsite Montessori training. “I’m so excited about it!”

Sara urges MMFS seniors not to get too caught up in the college application process. She encourages them to pursue the career path that speaks to them—no matter if, when, or how that changes. “It is so important to like your job. You can always change it later if you really want to. That’s what my mom did!” (Fun fact: Before joining MMFS, Fran enjoyed careers as a social worker, paralegal, and fashion designer!)

And even though she started college right after high school, Sara took her time finishing her degree. “There are no straight lines, and there is no rush. And I was always working. The whole time I was a college student, I was also working for MMFS, in the afterschool program. I miss Afterschool!”

Sara says that attending a Quaker school “definitely taught me that everyone should be able to have equality, peace, and community in their life. I actually left my last job because it didn’t offer me the sense of community I look for.”

Sara wants MMFS students—and all people with learning disabilities—to understand that having a learning disability actually makes you stronger. “Some things might come harder, but I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have my learning disabilities.” Sara encourages students to advocate for themselves in the classroom and in the world. “Speak up for what you need. There are so many ways to reach your own finish line. Follow the route that works for you.”

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