Science teacher Sari Tullis accepts Head of School position in Oregon


Photo courtesy of Alec Silberg, Dimensions Yearbook

Science teacher Sara Tullis teachers a lesson to her sixth grade students. Tullis currently teaches science to sixth-graders and seventh-grades along and Jewish Journeys and Collage.

Ella Waldman, Features Editor

Science teacher Sari Tullis’s days have become quite busy as she prepares for her final day at CESJDS on March 24, while also preparing for her new position as Head of School at Neskowin Valley School in Neskowin, Oregon. 

The small K-8 school will provide Tullis with new opportunities to contribute to and shape teacher development and support students. She will additionally oversee fundraising, marketing and outreach. Tullis, a teacher at JDS for three years, is looking forward to taking on these new responsibilities and feels that the COVID-19 pandemic pushed her to pursue the position.

“I think the pandemic had a lot to do, it was kind of like a catalyst for organizing my future and where I could see myself in the next few years, or even five to ten years,” Tullis said. “Growing up, this type of position has been a goal of mine. There’s teaching involved in this position, but of course there’s a lot of other responsibilities, it’s always something that I’ve wanted to do.” 

Prior to graduate school, Tullis was a camp director down the road from Neskowin Valley School. She grew up attending that summer camp so she already knew the community. When Tullis found out about the head of school position, she was able to learn more about the opportunity and the school culture from locals she knew in the area before beginning the rigorous interview process necessary to obtain the position. 

Neskowin Valley School did not run their program during the 2020-2021 school year due to the pandemic and the small size of their community. Because of this pause in their program, Tullis, along with the rest of the staff, will have a lot of work to do in the coming months to re-enroll their entire student body, which held about 50 students in the 2019-2020 school year, and meet their goal of returning to full-time in-person school. Completing that process will be a huge task and is one of the reasons Tullis needs to leave JDS in the middle of the year. 

As for JDS, Tullis currently teaches science, Collage and Jewish Journeys classes, for which the school is currently working to find replacement teachers. She will continue to teach her science classes virtually until spring break to give sufficient time to find a long-term substitute. Dr. David Solomon has taken over her Collage class, and because Jewish Journeys only runs for part of the school year, there is more time to find a substitute. 

In addition to her academic and elective classes, Tullis coached the cross country and track team. While coaching was not a role she had anticipated taking on as a science teacher at JDS, she feels it has been a very formative part of her experience at the school and that the combination of both coaching and teaching has taught her a lot. 

“One of the biggest things I learned from the track/cross country team, is just about mental toughness,” Tullis said. “I’ve learned so much from the team, and I even think about the team when I’m having a hard time. … I have learned a lot about how much I can push myself, and what I can physically and mentally can do, or what I’m capable of.” 

Not only has she learned about herself, but Tullis feels that teaching at JDS has given her the opportunity to grow as an educator.

“I’ve learned so much about my teaching style and my teaching methods because I was really given the autonomy to do that in my classroom. And that was really, I attribute that to [Kimberly] Agzigian, the science chair. She really believed and trusted me,” Tullis said. “She really enabled me to try new things and to refine my teaching style.” 

Overall, Tullis says that being a part of the JDS community was a growth experience. Because of the nature of the community and the bonds that Tullis has formed, saying goodbye will be difficult. 

“It was a really hard decision to make to leave JDS because teaching at JDS, and being in the science department, and teaching the students who I’ve had has been so enjoyable and challenging, and I’ve learned a lot,” Tullis said. “JDS was the perfect place for me to start my teaching career.”