Teacher’s bad school experience brings her back to the classroom to make a difference

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Although many teachers would say that they did not enjoy their high school experience, they typically end up finding a way back to that very place to make it a better place for those around them. Sarah Dabbs is definitely one of those people; And like many of her students, her high school experience was not an easy one.

During her last two years of high school, Dabbs had a difficult time due to the UCPS Board of Education making district changes. Most of her friends were affected by this and had to go to different schools, which caused her to feel isolated and alone. This change not only began to affect her emotionally, but it also took a toll on her academic performance.

“I couldn’t take tests. I could hardly sit in class; I was just having panic attacks all the time and I didn’t know what was happening to me,” said Dabbs. It wasn’t until she was older that she realized she was having anxiety. “At the time it was really dark. I was that typical didn’t like high school, didn’t see the point in being there, didn’t see the point in life sort of teenage experience. I don’t think it was anything at Weddington, it was more internal stuff.”

However, due to the difficult time Dabbs had as a junior and senior, she made a last minute decision on the morning of her graduation. “That morning I just woke up, and I hadn’t slept the night before. I was so anxiety ridden, and I just couldn’t go. I knew that I could not walk across the stage, and have everyone look at me,” explained Dabbs. “Everybody was mad. One of my best friends was so angry because we were actually going to be seated a row in front of each other, but she was going to be right behind me. She was really upset that I chose not to come.”

When her parents, Michael and Renae Dabbs, were informed that she would not be attending her graduation, they were not happy with her decision, but did not force her to go.“I hate that I disappointed my family, but I know I made the best decision for myself at the time,” stated Dabbs.

After high school, Dabbs decided to go to a community college before transferring to a university. She started off at South Piedmont Community College before noticing that she was still battling the same issues that she was in high school.“When I first started I thought to myself, ‘I dislike this just as much as I did high school; I’m going to quit’. So I quit and I started working as a waitress.” Soon after this she met her husband, Mike Ivey, and had her son, Austin Michael Ivey. 

Despite the fact that she didn’t enjoy community college the first time around she decided to try again. “I went to Central Piedmont Community, and the same thing happened. I had a baby to take care of, I was with Mike at the time, I was working at CVS. I just said ‘nope this is too much for my schedule I can’t handle it right now. I quit again.’”

It wasn’t until she had her daughter, Elise Renae Ivey, that she realized how imperative it was that she went back to school. “I had two little kids and things started to get rough between my husband and I. I thought ‘okay, I have a feeling I might be on my own at some point with two kids to take care of, and I’m not making ends meet by working minimum wage jobs,’” expressed Dabbs. She then went on to attend York Technical college before transferring to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “It was tough because when I was at Charlotte, my husband and I were going through a separation. I was working two jobs, going to school, and raising my kids. There were many sleepless nights, but when I got the degree I realized this thing is really blood, sweat and tears.”

Dabbs is now starting her first full year of teaching as a History teacher at Forest Hills High School, and when looking back on her high school experience, her perspective has changed now that she is a 27-year-old adult. “Being on the other side of the table and seeing high school through an adult perspective instead of a student is really weird. I did my training for UCPS at Weddington High School, and I hadn’t been in there in nine years. The place always seemed so big to me, and it seemed so busy and intimidating. Now going into it as an adult, it wasn’t that big at all,” expressed Dabbs.

Dabbs may not have had the best high school experience, but her optimistic personality has allowed her to make her students lives better by making sure that they know they have someone to talk to. She has also taken the initiative of being more involved in the Jacket committee by becoming a co-advisor of Student Council. She may not have any regrets about her high school career, but she has definitely learned from her past and is looking forward to the future.