Ms. Islas’s Alliteration: Community and Curiosity

Meet and get to know Ms . Sara Islas!



Ms. Sara Islas is a generous and kind soul who, inspired by her cultures, delights in storytelling as a way to understand others.

We’ve struck gold and maroon with Ms. Sara Islas: Bishop’s newest seventh and eighth grade English teacher from High Tech High. An avid reader, writer, and journalist, Ms. Islas is passionate about cultivating community and curiosity in her classroom through the mutual sharing of life experiences during discussions on literature. 

Q: Have you taught other grades [besides seventh and eighth] before? Or are you more middle school-oriented?

A: My first ever student teaching assignment was in seventh grade and I always said, “I’m going to return to seventh grade.” But then I got my first job and it was at a high school. I am so happy that happened because I have had a diverse experience—I have been lucky to teach grades six through twelve. I think there is something magical about each of them. I love the energy that the younger grades bring to learning, and I love the interpersonal reflection the older grades find in their learning as they move toward their transition past high school. Each grade is so special and unique and what I love about middle school is supporting students through the process of learning how to self-advocate, build strong relationships with their peers and teachers, and collaborate with their classmates.

Q: How did you come to want to be a writer, or English major?

A: My mom read to me every single night when I was little, and I was super lucky, and we always read together. We always had little book clubs and we were always reading something, and so she definitely instilled this love of reading, and my dad, too. We would sit at a café, and my dad would literally give me an article and be like “tell me the main point.” When I was a little elementary [kid], I would have to tell him the main point, or come up with questions. 

I guess I just fell in love with stories. And I come from two different cultures—my mom’s side is Jewish and my dad’s side is Mexican. I think both are cultures of stories, and so I just love stories, and I think stories are a way to understand people and come together and realize that we all have this universal experience, but, we also are all unique and that’s awesome.

Q: Do you have a favorite book, or piece of literature, or something that you have written?

A: So recently I read Maus, and I loved the nuance, the feeling, and the humanization that it gave to Jewish people. I think reading that book—I had family that died in the Holocaust—meant a lot to me, and I think it was captured so powerfully but subtly. I really liked Maus, and I hadn’t read it for all this time, and then I read [Maus l and ll] and I just loved it. I’d recommend it to everyone[…]It’s just a really beautiful telling of how learning your family’s history can impact you.

Q: Does that feed into the kind of English you prefer to write, or teach?

A: Definitely…What I’d usually say is my all-time favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, and that’s a story about multiple generations, and how colonialism and then imperialism affects them, and I think that represents the other part of my culture being Latina…There’s this quote “no person reads the same book.” And I think the idea is that we all come to literature with our own experiences, and our own lens, and it’s like holding a mirror up to us, right? And so you and I can read the same book and have this totally different experience. The beautiful thing about being an English teacher is then I get to bring all these experiences around the table, and we get to talk about them. And so the book is beautiful on its own, but what’s really beautiful is when we share that and then we get to not only see through the eyes of the book, as a reflection onto ourselves, but see through someone else’s eyes and their experience. So I think to answer your question, I think books are very personal but there’s something beautiful when you bring them together in community.

Q: Is there anything else that you want to tell the Bishop’s community about yourself?

A: Yeah[…]to know that I’m really passionate about creating a community that supports each other and that lifts each other up, and that we’re not competitive, but, instead, we’re all wanting each other to be our personal bests. That’s really important to me to create in my classroom—its just that community, you know? I think in community that’s when we can grow individually. And I would say [that] the other big thing that’s important to me is curiosity. I think [that], when we can flip the mindset and go from [thinking] “Oh, I know what the answer is” or “I have this really good opinion that I know is right” to instead being curious, I feel like being curious will take us to better answers. So, I think curiosity and community are really important to me.