#MightyTask: Sarah Bozzi

Friday, July 31, 2020
Sarah Bozzi

Faculty member Sarah Bozzi has been sewing all her life. She can’t remember a time when she didn’t know how to sew. In fact, she comes from a family of sewers: her mother always had a sewing machine set up in the house and her stepmother made all the bridesmaids’ dresses for Bozzi’s wedding. So, perhaps it is no surprise that when the Mercersburg Academy community found itself on lockdown and moving to online learning for the 2019-2020 spring term, Bozzi pulled out her sewing machine.

“I just needed to do something,” she says. “I think we were all—especially at the very beginning—feeling very lost and wondering: how can I actually help other than sitting in my house?”

Bozzi’s mother and stepmother were making masks, so Bozzi decided to make some for herself. When she realized how easy it was, she expanded her operation and began creating masks for the community. Fellow faculty member Kristi Magalhães assisted in the mask making, and several individuals donated material. Staff member Bill Mann and his wife Tracy also assisted. Tracy works in the medical field and provided mask kits for Bozzi to assemble.

Bozzi made all types of masks: some with ties, others with elastic straps, some sized for adults, and others just right for children. When elastic became hard to come by, Bozzi was able to repurpose the elastic from hair ties and old clothes. She spread the word that the masks were available and then left a box on her porch and a sign-up sheet, which helped her know how many masks people were taking and how many more she would need to make.

Between the kits for Tracy Mann and the masks Bozzi created for her neighbors, she estimates that she assembled about 200 masks in total before packing up her mask-making operation for the summer.

“I personally feel like what I’ve done is not a big deal,” says Bozzi. “There are so many people in this world who are doing so many amazing and much better and braver things. I’m humbled when I think about others and the essential workers who are exposed and have done such a great job. That’s sort of where I’m coming from making masks: a desire to help. Originally, I was planning to distribute to hospitals, but the hospitals in our area already had enough. So, I thought at least our community I can try to keep safe. Start small.”

Outside of mask making, Bozzi has found life in quarantine to be an interesting mix of free time and teaching challenges. “In some ways, I have enjoyed the opportunity to spend time not being busy and to think about what is most important: family, health, and friendship. Having our eyes opened to that is good, but at the same time, there’s the monotony of day after day.

“We’ve done a lot of cooking and a lot of gardening. Making masks was another way to spend time not going crazy.”

Adjusting to online teaching has been the stressful part, she says: “In some ways, the online teaching has been the most challenging time of my career. At any time, interpersonal relationships with students are definitely always the hardest thing, and that sort of was taken away. But then having to redefine what we do and how we do it in the span of like three days was stressful.”

Bozzi says it was especially challenging to figure out whether or not she was being an effective teacher. “When you are looking at 16 little squares on a screen, you don’t get the feedback that you normally would,” she says, “but at the same time, the online learning stripped away some of the things that some students struggle with, and there were some students who were quite successful and were able to thrive in ways that I hadn’t seen yet in the year and rise to the challenge—and that was rewarding.”

Bozzi has taught mathematics at Mercersburg since 2014, and she is also the assistant director of the Mercersburg Outdoor Education program. She and her husband, Jay (who is the head of the history department), live just off campus and look forward to laughing with students and colleagues again when everyone can be together on campus.