Faculty Spotlight | Sarah Reiman
15 July 2021
With a passion for social justice and an accomplished career advocating and caring for children and those with mental health needs, Sarah Reiman brings her expertise to Harford and an individualized teaching approach to her students.
Sarah Reiman has been with Harford as an adjunct professor since 2019. In that short amount of time, she’s established herself as a vital member of the BSS division, teaching Intro to Sociology and Social Problems, a required course for the Harford County Sheriff Academy Cadets. Sarah holds a BA in Sociology and a master’s in Social Work, and is a licensed clinical social worker with an extensive background, including as a Health Policy Analyst for the Behavioral Health Administration, a Certified Youth Mental Health First Aid Training Instructor, and a Lactation Support Worker through the University of Maryland Medical System.
Sarah’s desire to help others began at a very early age and was directly influenced by her family. “My mom, brother and I lived with my grandparents after my parents divorced. We lived in Hampden in Baltimore, a very white neighborhood. My mother told me how, when she was young, my grandmother played a vital role in desegregating the neighborhood school. My grandfather was a truck driver and very active in the union. My mom, a Social Studies teacher, was a hippie and active in various social causes. She married my stepfather, who was also a teacher. They were very active in social justice issues and made sure that my brother, sister, and I were as well,” she explained. Sarah and her siblings were raised going to protests and rallies, participating in church mission trips, and doing volunteer work. “The church we attended (and I still attend) was very active in social justice causes and it instilled strong social justice values in me,” added Sarah.
While she was attending graduate school, her experience taking part-time and evening classes had a profound impact on her future career focus. “I was disappointed in what the school offered for those students, but loved all my adjunct professors. There were some who really stuck with me over the years and the experience I had with those professors made me want to be there for students who weren’t the norm – older students, non-citizens, those returning to school, working students. I wanted to be able to provide a voice for these students who may get overlooked or who may not always get the same resources as the regular full-time students. As someone who had been there, I thought my experiences could provide some encouragement and support to them,” said Sarah.
Prior to teaching at HCC, Sarah worked as a social worker in a variety of venues from the criminal justice system to hospitals. Her focus was mainly on individuals dealing with mental illness and child welfare. “I started to get really burned out and needed to find a way to still help but not lose my faith in humanity! But my graduate school education had only taught me how to be a clinician. I wasn’t sure what else I could do with an MSW. I found out there was a whole lot that I could do. I found a job at the Governor’s Office for Children, developing and overseeing policy related to out of home placement for children,” she explained. This led to a job at the University of Maryland School of Social Work doing policy and research work related to child welfare. “My work involved assisting the Department of Human Resources in evaluating their Child Welfare policies and programs for efficiency and effectiveness. I also led quality assurance reviews of all the local Social Services agencies across the state. I now work as a Health Policy Analyst for the Behavioral Health Administration, a part of the Maryland Department of Health, where I oversee and manage mental health and substance abuse federal block grants. These grants administer millions of dollars across the state to support behavioral health programs and services throughout Maryland,” said Sarah.
In addition to teaching at Harford, she teaches online as adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland Global Campus, where she has a large military student population, and is also an Adjunct II at University of Maryland at Baltimore, School of Social Work. She teaches Social Research and Policy course to graduate level students.
Sarah enjoys teaching online and tries to incorporate a lot of fun, interactive strategies to engage her students. In her Sociology class, she uses movies, videos, polls and surveys to augment the lessons. “Before COVID I had a lot of experience teaching online, so when COVID hit I was fortunate enough to be able to make a relatively easy transition. I had always liked to incorporate different learning modalities into my classes, and this just gave me the opportunity to do that more. The one challenge I did notice was that before COVID, the students who took my online classes were making the choice to take the class online and now I had students who did not have this choice, so they were not as familiar with online learning and had many apprehensions. There were many students who needed extra assistance with adapting to the online learning platform,” Sarah explained.
When working with students, Sarah likes to take an individualized approach to teaching. “I have found that teaching is a lot more than just teaching the subject matter/content of the course. I have students in my class with varied skill levels – some come more prepared from high school than others; some are not native English speakers, and some are returning to school after many years. I am finding that it’s just as important for me to teach them some basic skills – education and life – that will help them even after they move on from my class and from HCC. I would be doing them a disservice if I overlooked something and just let it go without providing feedback. I also don’t feel that the student should fail if they are putting in an honest effort but just lack the skills due to a prior lack of education, opportunity, etc. I find that I must evaluate each student individually; not be as hard-set in my expectations and adjust my grading accordingly if necessary. It’s more important to me that they leave my class having learned something that will help them in life, than if I followed my syllabus to the tee,” said Sarah.
Despite a busy full-time job, Sarah is an active faculty member outside of the classroom at HCC. An adjunct representative on Faculty Council since April 2020, she also serves on the ad hoc subcommittee created specifically to address adjunct roles at Harford. “I am proud to be a member of the Faculty Council. It’s important for me to be aware of what’s going on at the school and having a say in what happens – especially for the adjunct staff,” said Sarah. In August 2020, she was selected as one of the 2020-21 Lumen Circles Fellows for Harford Community College for the fall 2020/spring 2021 cohorts. “The two previous Lumen Circles I have participated in have been Online Teaching Foundation and Evidence-Based Teaching Practices. I am currently participating in Belonging & Inclusive Teaching Fundamentals,” she explained. The fellowships offer an introduction to resources and best practices associated with the specific circle theme. It provides opportunities to explore examples of effective tools and teaching practices associated with the circle theme. “I was able to explore topics that interest me, generate ideas for improving my teaching, and make small adjustments that shift my teaching in new directions – all with the support of peers in my circle. I was able to set goals for myself, informed by the Instructional Practices Inventory and evolve my teaching philosophy,” added Sarah.
Sarah has lots of interests outside of work too. She enjoys spending time with her family, a husband and two sons aged 12 and 7, and just became an aunt for the third time as her sister welcomed a new baby boy on July 1. “I enjoy working out, especially dancing, and am in the process of becoming a certified WERQ instructor. WERQ is a cardio dance workout based on trending pop and hip-hop music. I also enjoy reading, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, travel, and movies,” she said.
Sarah’s straightforward manner has won her the admiration of both staff and students at HCC. “I do believe there are times when we need to take criticism and use it to improve ourselves and other times where we need to ignore negative energy because it uses up our energy. I’ve found that you need to not be afraid to say what you mean and feel,” said Sarah. Her dedication and contributions to the students and faculty of Harford Community College and the BSS division is incredibly deserving of recognition. Congratulations, Sarah!