School NewsFeb 12, 2021

updated Jun 2, 2021

Remembering Sarah McFarland

A seasoned world traveler and consummate reader, she was, as her obituary noted, “the kind of teacher every high school should have.”

We were saddened to learn of the January 12 death of former History Teacher, College Counselor, and Resident Sarah McFarland, who wore many hats during her 25 years at Miss Hall’s.

Sarah joined MHS in 1989 as a resident and college counselor, a position she held for thirteen years, and began teaching History in 1992. A resident for 25 years, she also held the roles of History Department Chair, School Archivist, Senior Class Advisor, JV basketball and tennis coach, and advisor to Essence.

Sarah came to MHS from the Williams College Library, where she was Head of the Reference Department. A seasoned world traveler and consummate reader (Sarah maintained a list of books she had read since 1960), she was, as her obituary noted, “the kind of teacher every high school should have.”

Some of the many remembrances we've received

“Sarah was direct in her critiques, for sure, but also invaluable to me as a first-year head trying to learn so much so fast, and decipher so many unspoken Miss Hall’s rules. I know that I am a better head of school for having known her and learned from her, and I will be forever grateful for her kindness, generosity, humor and care.”
— Head of School Julia Heaton (Read more)

"As a resident, Sarah delighted in spending time telling MHS ghost stories with the 9th graders, when they lived together on the 2nd floor — to my absolute dismay, as it took weeks sometimes to calm them back down. I had the pleasure of taking AP European History with her, and she amazed me with her notes and preparation for each class — much of which she never really had to reference during a lecture. She was like that in all of her classes, and her students benefited from all that brought with her into the classroom and in to the dorm.
— Director of Academic Counseling Sarah Virden (Read more)

“I will remember her forever for lots of reasons, but especially for the chair races that she and I used to have. This was truly a noble
MHS tradition — what started as a strange, impromptu (and eventually annual) race on office chairs down the upstairs hallway finished as a dramatic spectacle in front of the whole school at a community meeting the year she retired. We probably did this a dozen times, over the years, and I never once won. I was always happy to play the villain to her hero for the students who watched, and I can still see her triumphant smirk. I loved her for it.”
— History Department Chair Matthew Rutledge P’08, ’11(Read more)

Ms. McFarland vs. MR — Chair Race!


"At least half of what it takes to be a great teacher of girls is being a good role model. We can check both boxes for Sarah McFarland—she taught well and set a good example for her students and colleagues. If I had the names of all the girls who shared with me their love and appreciation for Ms. McFarland over the years, the list would stretch from Holmes Road to the Klein Arts Center. Her secret was connection."
— Jeannie Norris, H’62, H’12(Read more)

“One of my earliest experiences as a new faculty member was being on move-in duty with Sarah. To be honest, I was a bit intimidated. She was experienced and steeped in residential boarding school culture and knowledge. I was brand new, green, but ready to learn. She showed me the ropes and was playful. As I grew to know her in future years, I learned of her deep sense of humor and tendency for play and great adventure.

"At one point, on that move-in day, we were both dragging trash bags out of the dormitory to the dumpsters near the kitchen. As we tossed the trash in the Dumpster, I noticed piles of old classroom maps, removed and trashed because they were no longer relevant classroom fixtures. I expressed curiosity and wonder at these artifacts. Sarah explained that no one wanted them, but if I did, I should hop in. She lowered me down, encouraged me to take as many as I pleased. She helped me back out. I dusted myself off, we laughed, and went to meet the next new student about to begin their MHS experience. She is missed!”
— Alison Basdekis, Director of Horizons

“Sarah was a force to be reckoned with. She always called people out when she thought they were wasting her time with "pleasantries." When I first came to Miss Hall's, Sarah's classroom was across the hall from my office in the Klein — what is now an art room. Sarah and I enjoyed brief, daily visits where Sarah would engage in sarcastic banter with me. One day I came to visit Sarah, and admitted to feeling inadequate about my prior academic experience in history classes. I asked Sarah if she would tutor me with historical, random tidbits. Although the inadequacy was authentic the ask for information was not;) Sarah decided to teach me a weekly historical tidbit and quiz me at the end of each week. "King Harold: The Battle of Hastings..." I think Sarah was surprised that I remembered the gems of her tutelage."
— Jennifer Jordan, Director of Theater and Dance

“Ms. McFarland was an outstanding teacher and advocate for her students’ futures. She pushed me to reach higher than I had imagined, and I was buoyed by her confidence and support.”
— Erin Dobson Cooley ’97

“Ms. McFarland was a huge part of MHS life for me. She taught me the value of quick wit and dry humor. She always had an eye out
for me and protected me when I didn’t know I needed it, and I will always hold my memories of her close to my heart.”
— Ali Moore-Ede ’05

“Ms. McFarland opened up the world to me and really taught me how to think critically about our place in it. She showed me what a future as a badass, world- traveling, independent woman could look like. What a woman.”
— Nora McCloskey ’08

“I had Ms. McFarland for three different classes and sought two of them out because she taught them. Ms. McFarland is the reason I began to think more critically about my place in the world and how our actions, both big and small, can set off a ripple of change. She was a ball-buster and did not suffer fools, and I loved her for it.

“I was once too shy in 10th grade to ask the kitchen staff if I could borrow a knife; she took me by the cuff of my shirt and dragged me over there to make me get over my small fear. She gave me words of wisdom on how to overcome small fears and go forward with confidence. That has served me well so far! She also gave me a trick on how to deal with period cramps, which sounds silly, but to a 14-year-old it was huge (and a technique I still use to this day!). She made a lasting impact. I’m grateful to MHS for bringing her into our lives.”
— Cat Bunker ’07

“Ms. M. was brilliant. I only had her for Psychology and was struggling in her class. She did not give up on me. She helped me hone my organizational skills, and very quickly I went from Cs to As. She was the best!”
— Brigitte Walsh ’94

“She asked me what I wanted to do with my life. At the time I was 15 and said with great confidence that I wanted to be a lawyer. ‘A lawyer? Interesting, but no not you, dear Hannah,’  she said. ‘You my dear, should look into studying communications. Not that you need to study it, your personality is everything and you communicate so well. But that is where your strength lies. Communications and people! Take my word for it.’ I’m 28 now, with a B.A. in Strategic Communications, and every job I’ve had since I graduated has always played to these strengths that she knew I had all along.”
— Hannah Knoblauch ’10

“She’s the reason I went on to get my B.A in sociology, and one of the reasons I went into education. Her legacy lives on in all of us. She was the best (and man I remember the time she let me in her apartment, and we all were freaking out because she never let us kids in there).”
— Kyanna Joseph ’13