Director of School Open

Sam Darling


Sam Darling

Ms. Darling comes to Higher Ground Education with over ten years of educational experience that started via a non-traditional route. She actually has a degree in Graphic Design and Photography from the University of Mississippi, but was headhunted by Teach For America (TFA) her senior year.

Ms. Darling was placed in the Delta region of Arkansas for her TFA commitment and spent the next three years teaching and tutoring sixth through eighth grade mathematics, as well as taking on additional roles within the her school, the district, and TFA’s mentor/professional development program. During this time, Sam’s interest in teacher training/support and curriculum development peaked and she made a career move to the non-profit sector. She worked for Reasoning Mind, a cutting-edge, technology-based mathematics organization, for over seven years wearing many hats, but found a niche with project management and development.

Sam is the Director of School Open and, in the two years she has been with the company, has project managed the expansion of our network of schools from seven to forty-seven and counting. She often jokes that her specialty is “herding cats” and that color coding is one of her favorite things.

In her spare time, Sam helps support her family’s B&B in Central Virginia and loves to travel and be outdoors (and she is quite the craft beer and food enthusiast!).

My Story

Learn more about Sam.

  • What inspires you about education?

    Endless potential. Education is not something you complete in the first 18 years of your life and then you’re done – it’s something that can be at the forefront of every single day for every single person. Education is limitless and I’m inspired by the constant opportunity to learn something new - have a new discussion, understand a different perspective, learn a new skill, etc.

    There is a quote by W.B. Yeats I love that sums this up, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire,” and it’s something I think about all the time.

  • How did you discover Montessori?

    I did not discover Montessori until later in my adult life and had the opportunity to learn more through my non-traditional teaching path. Montessori was intriguing to me due to its differentiated approach to multi-age classroom dynamics, kinesthetic and active learning environment, and developmentally appropriate lessons that you just do not see often in a “more standard” educational experience.

  • How does Montessori inspire your daily life?

    Self-directed learning. There is a newspaper cartoon of the educational system as a conveyor belt in which identical students with backpacks “go in” to the education system and the machine takes out creativity, discipline, and intelligence – then older students with diplomas “go out.” This is the problem, the challenge, that I feel Montessori is trying to address. Montessori inspires the engagement of students, its curriculum and atmosphere allows them to direct their own learning and find what they love, what they are interested in, what inspires them. They are encouraged to ask questions, to think outside the box, to disagree and form an original thought and argument.

    In my opinion, this is something adults as business professionals should embody as well and inspires my daily work habits and approach.

  • Do you have a favorite Montessori quote?

    “Our care of the children should be governed not by the desire to ‘make them learn things,’ but by the endeavor always to keep burning within them the light which is called intelligence.”

  • What have you learned from your time working at Higher Ground thus far?

    If you’re willing to take the time and go outside of your comfort zone, there is a creative solution out there that will help you meet your end goal. Things do not always fit inside a box with a pretty bow - if you’re willing to expand your own thinking and take the risk, there are great things you can achieve with your team.

  • What do you enjoy most about working with your teammates?

    I love being a part of a team that works as hard as I do and is appreciative at the same time.

  • What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?

    I’m 45 states and 24 countries down and there are so many more to go! In addition to traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures, I am a 100% foodie and am always in search for a solid beer. I dabble in anything culinary and drink related and you’ll often find me at a cooking or mixology class. Other hobbies include anything outside, whether it be hiking, kayaking, SCUBA diving, camping, or something new – I’m game! And most of my travels involve some sort of elevation gain, I’m a sucker for a solid view.

More Team Members