LAA Math Coach Sarah Aquino: 'That's What Pride Looks Like'
June 21, 2022 | Jeffrey Good
The educators at Lowcountry Acceleration Academy work hard to create an environment where all feel welcome. From the gender-neutral bathrooms to the question “Which pronouns do you prefer?” — graduation candidates who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer feel instantly at home.
And when they meet their math coach, Sarah Aquino, they see a living example of an adult who is thriving as exactly who she is.
“Seeing their lesbian math coach have her wife and kids come in some days, that’s so empowering,” says Sarah. “That’s what Pride looks like.”
As Acceleration Academies celebrates Pride month at locations around the country, Sarah celebrates a non-traditional school that works hard to treat all GCs as the individuals they are. That means not subjecting them to arbitrary strictures on making a cell phone call, abiding by a dress code or asking special permission to grab a cup of coffee — and inviting them into a learning space with students and educators of all types.
“When you walk through here, there are so many different types of GCs,” she says. “That is so calming for GCs that are anxious, that are gay or straight or transgender.”
School was different for Sarah when she was growing up in the small Massachusetts town of Canton near Boston. She rarely encountered adults who differed — at least openly — from the heterosexual, gender-binary norm.
“I didn’t know any gay people,” she says. “If I did maybe I would have thought ‘Oh, that’s why I feel different.’ “
Recently, a Lowcountry GC who identifies as bisexual asked her, “How did you decide you wanted to marry a woman?” Sarah told her the realization dawned when she was at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut and a friend put her hand on Sarah’s. “That gave me butterflies,” she recalls. “I’d never had that feeling before.”
Sarah married her wife, Danielle, in 2018, and they have 2-year-old twins, Jaxson and Addison. Danielle is an elite-level volleyball coach and Sarah, a standout athlete herself, has long coached soccer, hockey and lacrosse. She says her two nephews “love their gay aunt.”
In the academic realm, her passion is math, a subject in which she’s always been “weirdly good.” For high schoolers (and colleagues) who find it a struggle subject, she tries to break it down into understandable chunks and, through patient work, to build confidence and spark success.
In college, she briefly toyed with the idea of a career in actuarial science. But after student teaching, she knew she had found her path.
“I like numbers but I like people more. I could never sit in a cubicle all day and crunch numbers,” Sarah says. After being in the classroom, “I thought ‘This is where I belong.”