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Image for Our 2019 Ida S. Baker Winner Talks Diversity, Culture & a Welcoming Atmosphere
Newsome High's Sandra Misciasci talks about her new role, overcoming challenges and her 2019 Ida S. Baker win.

Our 2019 Ida S. Baker Winner Talks Diversity, Culture & a Welcoming Atmosphere

November 11, 2019 - Employee Excellence

When you walk into Sandra Misciasci’s office at Newsome High School in Lithia, you want to pull up a pillow, grab a handful of m&m’s, open a good book and stay there forever.

That’s the point.

Misciasci is the Reading Coach at Newsome… She’s also our reigning Ida S. Baker Diversity Educator of the Year—and she wants her office to be welcoming to everyone.

There are pillows on the floor, framed pictures of her family and students on the wall, jars of candy sitting on a shelf, and even creams and lotions on her desk.

“I want it to be warm, I want it to be welcoming,” Misciasci explains. “I want it to be where teachers can have a safe space to say ‘I’m having trouble’ and I also want to send a message to my students that you are welcome here.”

This is her first year as a Reading Coach at Newsome… A role that she’s finding very busy and very rewarding. She credits the administration at Newsome for trusting her and allowing her the freedom to implement some really impactful programs that not only affect her classroom but all of Newsome’s 3000 students.

Two of those students are her own children. Misciasci’s daughter is a senior at Newsome and her son is a sophomore. She speaks of them with love and pride as she points at her daughter in her cheerleading uniform and her son on the football field. And then there’s her husband Michael, who is a social studies teacher at Newsome. “He’s the best human I know,” she says of her husband, “I’m so lucky.”

But really, it’s the students and staff at Newsome that are lucky. Mrs. Misciasci is in demand! Teachers and students are constantly dropping by her office, asking her questions and requesting her support.

Her expertise brings them to her door but her warm and inviting personality keep them coming back. There isn’t a student she passes in the hallway she doesn’t know by name, or embrace in a hug.

And when she asks how they are doing… It’s not just a pleasantry. She really wants to know. “The secret to making a difference to kids, is making sure they know you really want to know them and how they’re doing. I really, really, really want to know, are you okay? How is life going for you right now?”

It hasn’t always been so easy for Misciasci.

Early on in her teaching career there was a time of struggle and self-doubt. But, instead of giving up, she used it as a life lesson, “I had to take my feelings and set them aside. I learned what my areas of weakness and strength were. I really learned humility that year.”

And that humility is something that she has carried with her throughout her career. When asked about her successes the credit always goes to someone else. Usually God.

“I just remember walking on that stage and I could just feel my finger pointing up,” she says of the evening she won the Ida S. Baker award. “I just knew, accolades and awards don’t come from men, they come from God. This was Him saying, job well done Sandra. You are on the path I want you to be… Keep going there.”

Where that path leads, she’s not quite sure. But, for now, Misciasci is more than happy nestled in her lovely, comfortable, welcoming office on the second floor of Newsome High School—helping teachers teach, students learn and every person who walks on campus feel like they belong.


Stay tuned for more surprises! Each school has chosen its 2020 EIE winners and the Surprise Patrol will be on the move next month to surprise Hillsborough County's Finalists!