After Dunlap native Sarai Pierce graduated with an Associate of Science degree from Chattanooga State Community College in 1996, she spent the next 26 years honing her skills as an educator before being selected as the director of schools for Sequatchie County in 2022.
When starting her educational journey as a ChattState student, Ms. Pierce remembers being nervous about driving from Dunlap to Chattanooga. “Just figuring out where things were on campus was a challenge at first,” stated Ms. Pierce. She found that it did not take long for her to acclimate and shared that her best experience at the College was connecting with fellow students and the professors. Being immediately met with kindness, Ms. Pierce said, “I quickly discovered that people were more alike than different, no matter where we lived.” She also recalled feeling encouraged by every faculty member making school a much better experience.
The two years that Ms. Pierce spent at Chattanooga State helped prepare her for the transition to university level. “I learned to backwards plan and make better use of my time,” stated Ms. Pierce. “It was at Chattanooga State that I learned how to read a syllabus and do my work as I went rather than procrastinate.”
Before rising in the ranks to the district level as PreK-6th grade supervisor of curriculum in Sequatchie County, Ms. Pierce served as a classroom teacher, assistant principal, and principal over a span of 14 years. “Having those previous experiences allowed me to be a better support to teachers and students,” said Ms. Pierce.
Crediting her experiences at Chattanooga State into her successful career, Ms. Pierce noted that many of the Tennessee Promise students she mentors know she is a ChattState advocate. “It’s a great starting place,” said Ms. Pierce. “Chattanooga State provides students with exactly the foundation they need to be successful in future endeavors.”
“I believe in giving students early access to postsecondary options, and I’m proud that our high school now has a career center and is starting to place Work Based Learning into the community.” Going forward, she would like to see more exposure to college and career in the middle school grades. “Our fourth-grade team has already made arrangements to highlight all the opportunities available,” stated Ms. Pierce. “We want to feature hands-on classes and partners like Chattanooga State can help by sending presenters to talk to our students, offering dual enrollment, and utilizing outreach to help educate and share options.”
Ms. Pierce holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from UTC and a master’s and Educational Leadership degree from Tennessee Technological University. She currently resides in Dunlap.