NLPeople: Sara Lewis, operations manager
NLPeople Sara Lewis
Takoma Park, Maryland
This is part of a series that introduces you to the people behind the scenes at the News Literacy Project.
1.) Can you tell us a little about your background and what brought you to NLP?
I was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and am a proud Michigander. At the University of Michigan, service was a big part of my college experience, and it was through volunteering with children that I decided I wanted to be a teacher. I joined Teach for America right out of college and began my professional journey in education. I taught high school and middle school social studies for seven years, most of them in Washington, D.C., and then I then transitioned to supporting teachers through working in operations at education nonprofits in New Haven and Boston. After being a full-time mom for five years, I then found my way to NLP, which felt like a perfect fit for me as a former social studies teacher and nonprofit operations manager.
2.) How has your Teach for America experience working with students in underserved areas informed your work at NLP?
Well to start, I so wish that NLP had been in existence when I was teaching social studies. As a former teacher, not only can I appreciate the incredible resources NLP provides for educators, but I also understand the need for strong systems to make an organization run smoothly. When I was teaching in urban public schools several years ago, there were broken systems at every turn and that kept all stakeholders from having the experience that they deserved. Thus, when I started working in nonprofit operations, I made it a priority to create and implement organized systems that make life easier for all staff and the educators we serve.
3.) Since joining NLP, what has been your most satisfying or surprising experience?
During my first year of teaching, I spent each evening reviewing and sometimes learning the content that I was about to teach the next day. And while staying just a day ahead of my students certainly wasn’t ideal, I did truly enjoy learning new material that I hadn’t been taught in my history classes. Lacking a background in journalism, I was surprised to discover when I first started working for NLP just how much I didn’t know about what goes into creating quality news. I soon realized that one of the biggest perks of this job would be getting to again learn something new every day. At NLP, I am constantly learning new things about news literacy and that’s been probably the most satisfying and surprising part of being a part of this organization.
4.) You have young kids; do they understand NLP’s work and your role?
The other day I overheard a conversation between my 7-year-old daughter and a friend in which they were discussing what their parents did at work. My daughter explained to her friend that her mom “helps people understand what to believe on the internet,” so she has a general understanding of the work that NLP does. My 10-year-old son certainly has a higher level of understanding of NLP’s work than his sister. He has always been quite precocious, and like his mom, is a history buff and a news junkie. One of my favorite things to do with him while we’re in the car on the way to soccer practice is to listen to news podcasts and then talk about the content. I look forward to introducing him to Checkology in the near future!
5.) What news literacy tip, tool or guidance do you most often use?
I’m not sure that this is the tool I use most often, but my favorite new literacy tool is probably geolocation. While my family is quite settled in our current house and we have no plans to move anytime soon, I am a real estate junkie and I love checking out the online listings of nearby homes for sale and using Google Street View to explore new neighborhoods.
6.) Aside from fighting for facts, what else are you passionate about?
The outdoors! I love being outside in all sorts of weather, particularly in the snow. Unfortunately for me, D.C. gets only one or two good snowfalls a year (if that). I grew up skiing, ice skating on the lake, playing ice hockey, and building snow forts, and I love to find ways to get outside with my family. One of the best parts of the pandemic has been all the hiking that I’ve been able to convince my husband and kids to do with me. In addition to playing outside, I also love traveling and exploring new places.
7.) Are you on team dog, team cat, team wombat? Or do you prefer stuffed animals to pets?
My mother is quite the animal lover, and I grew up with dogs, cats, guinea pigs, cockatiels, finches, fish, frogs and bunnies. Somehow, I managed to marry a man who is not even an animal liker, thus our house is devoid of pets. But I’m definitely on team dog. Someday I plan to come home with a dog and hopefully my husband will come around to the new member of our family.
8.) What item do you always have in your fridge?
A lemon. I use lemons all the time. In my tea, squeezed over roasted veggies, to make marinades and dressings, etc.
9.) What’s in your backpack, laptop case or pocket right now?
I’m a mom so I of course have a giant purse that contains all the usual items (keys, wallet, mask, reusable grocery bags), but then I also have lots of snacks, band-aids and Kleenex. Oh, and my planner, which is made of paper! I get teased for having a paper planner, but I much prefer this old school method of organizing my life.