Meet Mark and Sarah
You might know Dr. Sarah Levy and Mark Parmet as the co-founders of Einstein Academy, but who are they? We asked them a few questions to get to know them a little better.
Okay, so who are you?
S - I’ve been in the field of Jewish education for about 17 years and have working in synagogue education, supplemental education, experiential education, adult education, and day school education. I have master’s in Jewish education and earned a doctorate in education in addition to having certificates in Advanced Jewish Studies, Day School Education, and Jewish Educational Leadership. I love to read and be outdoors (really love reading outdoors). I met my husband in Israel, and we have four kids (aged 9, 7, 5, and 3) and a dog named Sparky.
M - I’ve also been in education for about 17 years, having taught subjects such as reading, social studies, math, and science and serving in various school leadership roles. I earned my Master of Education degree with an emphasis in School Leadership from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education. I really enjoy taking advantage of all that Colorado has to offer, and you can often find me exploring the mountains, hiking, camping, or paddle boarding with my wife Chrissy.
What was school like for you?
S - I was good at school. I was good at figuring out what the teachers wanted and giving it to them, earning a perfect GPA, graduating at the top of my class, and gaining admission to the best schools in the county (did I mention I loved standardized tests?). College started out much the same...figure out what teachers wanted and give it to them. I was good at the game, but it was so boring. I was rarely (if ever) challenged. I didn’t learn the skills that would be most important to my success later in life — it took me a long time to think creatively, I still struggle to collaborate, and I am constantly working to foster my emotional intelligence. I often think it’s a little funny that by most accounts, I would be considered a success of the school system, but I don’t feel like it gave me what I needed.
M - School was not easy for me, and I was often led to believe that I was stupid. My teachers didn’t really seem to care about me and my learning, so I spent a lot of time sitting in the back, dozing off or daydreaming -- definitely not doing what was “expected” of me. It’s not that I didn’t have interests; it’s just that I didn’t find anything in school to be interesting, and no one took the time to get to know me and engage me or consider how I might learn best. I know there were many calls home about how disappointed teachers were in me, and I realize now as an adult that, not only did it totally beat me down, it must have been really hard for my parents. It wasn’t until college that I learned how to learn and didn’t feel so stupid.
When did you first know you wanted to go into education?
M - I was in the business world for a while and needed a change, so I started working as a para in San Francisco. I was only in that position for three months because I couldn’t afford to be there any longer (I took a significant pay cut when I switched jobs). When I left, the kids wrote letters and gave me gifts, and I remember thinking that it was better than any paycheck I’d ever gotten. I remember thinking to myself, “I want to do this.” It was the hardest job I’d ever done; kids would just run out of class, and I’d often questioned my choice to leave sales, thinking, “What did I get myself into?” But, yes, it was what I wanted to do, and, ultimately, I loved it so much. There are still moments when I wonder what I am doing, but I keep coming back to it.
S - I didn’t really. It’s kind of something I just fell into without planning. I had been in school for business and hated it, and I started working in education until I figured out what I would really do. I was drawn towards building relationships with kids and helping them each connect in their own way. At one point, I was asked to teach fifth grade Hebrew, not because I knew Hebrew (I didn’t at that time), but because it was a group of rowdy boys, and the director felt I was the only one who could connect with the kids. Five years into “figuring out what I wanted to do,” I realized I was doing what I wanted to do, and I was so excited to realize that Jewish education was actually a field to which I could dedicate my life.
When did you first know you wanted to start Einstein Academy?
S - That was also something I kind of fell into without planning. Over years of refining my educational vision and engaging in conversation about what could be possible and what a school could look like, the idea just slowly started appealing to me. There is really something so appealing about a mission-driven school that is built with the needs of today’s students in mind. Now I kind of get goose bumps thinking about it.
M - Early in my education career, I was at a school where the administration kept coming to me, asking me to “tone it down.” So many kids loved being in my classes that all of the students were requesting to be with me, and they couldn’t accommodate all of the requests. I wasn’t doing anything special; I took the kids outside to learn a lot or figured out what their interests were and connected the material to those interests and gave them lots of opportunities for hands-on learning. I also was struck by the way students were viewed. I have always believed that kids, no matter what age, are capable of amazing things when you let them, and when you give them some autonomy, you’ll be surprised at what they accomplish. I wondered to myself, “Why can’t there be a school that focuses on what kids enjoy doing? Why are we trying to force things on them? Why aren’t we doing what is best for our kids? Why don’t we trust our kids enough to hear them when they tell us what they need?” I realized that the only way there would be a school like this would be if I were to create it myself. I really just wanted a place where kids can explore and where learning is fun.
What excites you most about Einstein Academy?
M - There are so many pieces of what we are doing that excite me; I love learning about development and creating our logo and figuring out social media. But what excites me the most is that I am actually doing something I’ve been wanting to do for 15 years, and the most exciting piece of that, for me, is to create this school with the community. I really and truly value parents and have so much respect and admiration for them. I am so excited to co-construct this place with them so that it’s not just an amazing school for their kids, but that it’s a place where they are genuinely seen as partners. I’m also just really excited about getting kids out of the building once we open, out of the building and into the community as that is where the real learning will happen.
S - What we are doing isn’t happening anywhere else, and that really excites me. We are taking a really thoughtful approach to each step of the process, keeping the students at the center, and really examining what is means to be a school of the 21st century.
What’s your favorite thing about working together?
S - I really love how thoughtful Mark is, always doing what is best for students and never being afraid of doing what is right, even if it’s hard. Mark also really models a growth mindset for his students and those around him, always looking for feedback in order to learn and grow.
M - Sarah pushes me in a way I’ve never been pushed before, making me work harder and think at a totally different level. I really love to grow, and working together gives me so much opportunity for growth.
What is a favorite movie of yours, and what insight does it give you that might be relevant to this conversation?
S - I love the movie Cool Runnings for so many reasons. As for insight into education, it really speaks to the idea of being clear about who you are, staying true to that, and overcoming challenges. I also really love the idea of setting ambitious goals (that might seem crazy to some) and then figuring out how to accomplish them.
M - Definitely Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I just love how they got one over on the school.