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Sarah Cohen: Bringing Creativity to the Classroom

Instructional Designer Sarah Cohen brings her passion for teaching and creative writing to NWCPHP’s learning products, helping to conceptualize and design online trainings for adult learners. When she’s not hard at work creating trainings, Sarah spends her time chasing after her twin toddlers and working on two book manuscripts.

Instructional Designer Sarah Cohen brings her passion for teaching and creative writing to NWCPHP’s learning products, helping to conceptualize and design online trainings for adult learners. She spends her time outside of work chasing after her twin toddlers and writing creatively.

July 1, 2015

Creativity played a big role in Sarah Cohen's upbringing. As a child growing up near Boston, she remembers hearing her dad play jazz and improv piano almost constantly. The eldest of two sisters—from a family of classical music composers—Sarah ended up finding her creative outlet through reading and writing instead.

Her passion for the written word led Sarah to pursue a number of educational degrees and travel all across the country. First she obtained a Bachelor's degree in English, then a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, and finally, a PhD in English. Along the way, she also worked in journalism, for a time at The Atlantic, then freelance writing and editing.

Sarah's career has also focused on teaching, an interest that she's pursued in many forms over the years. One of her first jobs can be described only as memorable; she worked as a sailing instructor for 8 to 15-year-olds at a Girl Scout camp on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

"I had learned how to sail when I was younger but the experience of teaching it to others is unique," explained Sarah. "There's no time to hesitate as an instructor—you're on the water, the kids are scared, and they need to learn how to control the boat safely. It was amazing to watch these kids go from unsure and terrified to feeling like they had mastered something."

Other teaching jobs included individual tutoring, teaching college writing, and teaching literature classes. Sarah also briefly ran her own test preparation company, developing curriculum and helping adult learners prepare for their GRE tests.

Today, as an Instructional Designer for NWCPHP, Sarah gets to incorporate her love for teaching and creative writing into her work. In her day-to-day job, her work runs the gamut from using text and images to convey difficult concepts to actually teaching in the classroom.

"As an English and writing instructor, I loved seeing how students could take what they were learning and apply it to situations outside the classroom, not only to become more successful, but also to become more understanding and compassionate," said Sarah. "I see that same dynamic in the work we do at NWCPHP. I love helping to give people the tools to be more effective at making the world a better place."

"Many paths have led me to the field of instructional design," continued Sarah. "I've always known that words and communication would be a big part of my career. I was the kind of kid who would read at the dinner table, and reading and writing are really still important to me today. I also really love the creative side of instructional design and thinking about how, even with a topic that might seem dry, we can use tools like pacing, suspense, and humor to help make the material engaging."

Sarah Cohen and Family

Outside of work, Sarah stays busy being a parent to her twin boys who are almost two and teenage stepchildren. She's currently on a "mission to visit every playground in the Seattle area." Her family also has a hobby farm in Shoreline with a barn and a rotating cast of farm animals, including goats, chickens, rabbits, and a semi-feral "working cat."

When she's not busy with her family, she spends her time working on two book manuscripts, which include a collection of poetry and an adaptation of her PhD dissertation. Sarah also breaks out her cello occasionally. She first learned to play when she was eight years old, and has recently played with Philharmonia Northwest, a local Seattle orchestra.

Sarah's next teaching adventure will take her to Montana where she will serve as the instructor for the Project Management course in the upcoming Public Health Management Certificate program.

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