The Ability Challeng
Meet Our Founder: Sarah Sandelius

We are switching things up at The Ability Challenge! To usher in this new chapter, the first thing that we’d like to do is re-introduce ABC’s Founder, Sarah Sandelius. In this publication, she’ll share her motivation, background, and what The Ability Challenge means to her!

Why education?

As a child, I had an incredible educational journey.  One that taught me that curiosity, inquiry, and hard work lead to learning.  From public to private, large and small institutions, close by and far away, I learned a tremendous amount about how to navigate the world and be a successful, contributing citizen.  It’s only as I look back on those experiences that I recognize how extremely privileged I was to have those experiences.  I work in education because I want to ensure that every child, regardless of where they come from, the color of their skin, or their diverse learning need can have what I had.

Why special education?

As a lawyer, consistently hearing that practices for students are done a certain way because that’s what the law requires, I am constantly surprised.  School and teaching should be first and foremost about what’s good for kids – all kids – and compliance, process, and systems are developed around the student at the center.  Students with disabilities are some of the smartest and most creative students I’ve known because they’ve learned to navigate our current educational systems despite the fact that those systems are not designed for them.  As adults, we can and should do better.

Why The Ability Challenge?

When I moved back to the DC area after being in NYC for almost a decade, I began consulting for a number of schools across the country.  The work was incredibly gratifying, but there were seeds of driving my own change starting in my head.  So I became my own client essentially and began the harder work of creating an organization and a model that will establish proof points our sector needs to show that systems for special education can create equitable results.  This has been the hardest work I have ever taken on, and being an entrepreneur has taken me from my comfort zone on a regular basis, but I have also never been more professionally and personally gratified as I am when leading ABC.

What else motivates you?

Over this year of change, I’ve done a lot of reflection – what is it I want to see for my organization and myself going forward?  While I am still formulating much of that answer, some bright spots have emerged.  First, I want to be a present and involved mother, wife, friend, daughter, sister, aunt, etc. to my incredible family.  I’m privileged to have much of my immediate family nearby and love that setting my own schedule gives me the time to make that happen.  I have a six-year-old daughter who talks more than anyone I know and constantly astonishes me with how she takes in and digests new information.  Second, I have a creative drive and while I am a terrible dancer and singer, I channel that artistic energy into making my work pretty and accessible.  I can easily spend hours creating a PowerPoint or social media image, especially when I’m processing something related to work.  Third, I like to zone out with reality television, true crime podcasts, and reading fiction.  I’ve recently come to the realization that my brain appreciates non-work thinking time, so puzzles and coloring books are my COVID-era new hobbies.

What are you most proud of?

Definitely my family.  While we’ve certainly had a lot of together time over the past year, I wouldn’t have gotten through it if I didn’t love their company. The picture below is my husband and daughter with my mother at my niece’s bat mitzvah (and yes, we were tested several times in order to make that photo happen). And second is ABC.  Surviving through COVID and coming out the other side is something that I’m very proud of…we kept working hard and we’re still here!!  I can’t wait to see how both of my babies grow and thrive in the months and years to come.

Thank you for reading. We hope you return soon for the new blogs twice a month! Check out our Pinterest board for some easy, fun content to benefit you and your classroom. You can also head over to Spotify for our 5 Minutes podcast series! Five minutes of continuing education!

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