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June 18, 2021

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15 minutes with Sarah Schaaf McCombs

Sarah Schaaf McCombs and her daughter, Carys McCombs

By Mary Pannabecker Steiner

What year did you graduate from Bluffton High School?


Share some of your favorite memories of growing up in Bluffton -- favorite teachers, stories about school and/or extra-curricular stuff.

There are so many, I would say some of my early favorite memories were hanging out with Sarah and Heidi Thomsen at the creek across from our house and playing all sorts of imagination games - we had quite the active imaginations.

I also have very fond memories of high school, being part of the band and orchestra, Mrs. Goode's awesome English class (and part of the inspiration for me to become a teacher), football games, and dances.

I remember evenings spent drinking lemonade and eating croutons at Denny's with friends and sledding down the AT&T hill.

What did you do after high school? When did you decide to become a teacher?

I spent the first year after high school at Bluffton University and started my major in English. I then went to work at Camp Friedenswald for a summer, loved it, didn't want to return to college and spent until November doing voluntary service. At that point, I realized it was time to get out of Bluffton and so I transferred to Ohio State and continued my English major.

OSU was a big adjustment to Bluffton but it has quickly become the hometown of my heart! I always kind of knew I wanted to teach but I didn't want to be a 22-year-old teaching 18-years-olds and so I decided to try some other fields until I was a bit older.

When did you leave Bluffton? Is that when you met your husband?

I left Bluffton in 1998 and I did meet Matt in Columbus but not until 2005.

When/why did you move to Colorado? What are you and your husband doing?

We moved to Denver during the summer of 2007 because my husband's company, Lafarge offered him a promotion. We currently live in Brighton and I am teaching English at Gateway High School in Aurora and he is the Valued Added Products manager for a division of Lafarge Ready-Mix.

What keeps you excited about the teaching field?

My love for my subject and my dedication to students - especially those who need positive role models. I have developed some strong mentor relationships with my students and they are a big part of my life.

Recently, I have become more involved with the politics of teaching and I have to say it has made me keep in mind why I am doing this - for the kids!

Are there any similarities between your current location and Bluffton? Big differences? Do you miss small town life or not at all?

Some, Brighton is an old ranching/farming town on the edge of Denver and there is a small town feel to it but the differences greet me every morning when I watch the sunrise over the Eastern plains and the mountains in the evening when the sun sets!

I do miss some aspects of the small town but I also love the culture - museums, shows, parks - that I get to experience in Denver. Not to mention the shopping...

How do you stay in touch with old friends or don't you? What keeps you connected to "home"?

I do to some extent. Facebook is my latest addiction and it has been nice to see and reconnect with people through it. I also try to see as many friends as I can when I am back in town.

My parents and extended family keep me connected to Bluffton. Tom and Sue Schaaf, my parents are there and active in the community and it always nice to come home and relax!

Tell me about your daughter, Carys. What have you learned from your parents about being a parent?

Carys is 17 months old and is quite the stubborn, strong-willed little girl already but is a delight. My parents are just about the best example of parenting I can think of so I try in all ways to do what they did. I try to have patience, understanding, and compassion.

You just spent a week or so back here -- did you get to see old friends or spend most of the time with your family?

Most of the time I was with family. I did get to go to Columbus for a day which was nice but it is just so hard to fit everything in when I am home.

What interests do you have as an adult that you've developed -- things that you never thought you'd do?

Hmmm, I still love to read but that shouldn't surprise too many who know me. I find that I am very much into meeting new people which IS new for me and I enjoy trying just about anything.

I hated to hike when I was a kid but we have had some great times hiking since we moved here as well as exploring the mountains.

Since you live in Colorado and come from a skiing family, do you do a lot of skiing now? Have you put Carys on skis yet?

I am embarrassed to say no but only because the first winter we moved out here I was pregnant, the next one I had a 6-month-old, and hopefully this winter will break that streak. I have all my gear just sitting there waiting to be worn again! No skis for Carys yet. She hopefully will get on them in the next year or so - depending on where we are living!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Still teaching in Colorado?

10 years...well, hopefully still teaching, although I am not sure where. My husband's job has the tendency to move us around so we could be anywhere. I hope to be doing what I love, raising my daughter to be a wonderful teenager, and making an impact in my career field.