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Sarah Dummer helps her middle school students choose a positive path to future

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Sarah Dummer has taught at Oregon Trail Academy for three years. There are two kinds of children: those who wish to be just like their parents and those who do everything in their power not to be them.

Oregon Trail Academy teacher Sarah Dummer was the latter — but it didn't last.

"I grew up in a family of teachers," the Otis native explained. Her father was even one of her teachers in high school, and her sister followed suit. "I spent a while trying not to follow in their footsteps."

After high school, Dummer pursued a degree in psychology and worked in loss prevention for seven years.

"I was interested in (becoming) a psychologist. I thought about then doing juvenile corrections. I knew I was going to work with people," she said. "All of my life experiences turned me back toward teaching."

Specifically what led her back was a realization: In order to help children down the right path, she felt it better to preempt their "fork-in-the-road" moment rather than work to change them after they'd made a life-altering choice for the worse.

So she pursued a master's degree in education from Portland State University.

"I wanted to work with youth at a younger age, and I felt middle level was a crucial time for good leadership," the 35-year-old noted. "It's that time where for kids it's a fork in the road. They're making big decisions that really start to impact their future."

She wanted to help set students up for success in high school and beyond.

"I wanted to be able to make an impact at a time where I could steer them in the right direction."

Dummer began her career at Corbett Middle School, where she taught for eight years. She's now in her third year at Oregon Trail Academy, where she teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade math and sixth- and seventh-grade language arts.

"I think my biggest challenge is taking a math-teaching position," she said. "It wasn't my favorite subject growing up."

Because she understands that math is rarely anyone else's favorite class either, Dummer tries to make the subject fun and show "how it is real-world applicable."

Seeing her students become more confident in their math skills has been Dummer's reward.

"When they start to talk more about math and share solutions in front of the class," that's rewarding to see, she noted. "That's like a kid's biggest fear in math is making a mistake in front of people, (but) that's usually where it clicks. We're all learning together."

Besides teaching in the classroom, Dummer also advises the OTA student council and leads the School Crashers, a school beautification club, which performs tasks to better the school inside and outside.

Through the latter she implemented a school garden, which teachers use to teach students. It was also a source of self-sustainable fundraising this year as the club planted pumpkins and sold them to keep the garden going.

When she's not molding minds or getting her hands dirty in the garden, Dummer enjoys playing piano and spending time with her two Alaskan malamutes.

"I love working in my yard," Dummer explained. "(The club is) inspired by the kids, but the garden is me and my hobby."

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