Sara Mistretta was nominated by an anonymous colleague.
While all teachers choose a rewarding, challenging, and unpredictable career, pre-kindergarten (pre-K) teachers specialize in providing a child's first learning/school experience. Ms. Mistretta shines in this role and truly exemplifies what it means to be a LifeChanger. She is able to create warm, fun, engaging classes year after year while participating in a variety of staff leadership roles and showing her investment in her children continuing to learn after leaving preschool.
In East Providence's state funded pre-K program (full day), children are placed in classrooms based on a lottery system. This means children with and without special needs are placed in groups of 20 children with 1 teacher and 1 teacher assistant. All preschool children need special care and attention as they leave their families for the first time. With this population, the needs range from minimal and easily adjusted, to difficult behavioral concerns requiring patience, flexibility, humor, and creativity to engage a child in the daily schedule.
On a daily basis, Ms. Mistretta takes these challenges in stride and makes each child feel like a valued member of her classroom. She has created so many "out of the box" solutions to classroom challenges that the children in her class often embrace the differences in personalities and help facilitate belonging and behavioral change without even knowing it. She is able to figure out a favorite topic, activity, or strength for each child and use these to make learning exciting. Children in her class pull their parents down the hallway on arrival, calling out "Miss M, Miss M, I have something to tell you." "Miss M, Miss M" is a refrain that continues straight through the day to dismissal.
Ms. Mistretta is able to listen to anyone with a story to tell while getting others to sign in, choose their lunch, and get through the morning routine. She takes her own lunch break to sit with her students while they explore school lunch - a process of tasting new foods daily, even when they declare them to look "yucky." She has worked with many students who refuse to try school foods. Using patience and humor (as well as eating the foods herself in front of them), she gets almost every child to eat new foods not far into the school year.
As a staff member, Ms. Mistretta steps up to take leadership roles whenever needed. She has participated in developing the pre-K to K transition process, which East Providence is working to improve so children have a relatively seamless transition from one program to the next. She worked on the curriculum development group, which explored appropriate curriculums for pre-k that help to prepare students for Kindergarten. She has implemented strategies for Conscious Discipline in order to create a warm, community-based classroom and meet the state initiative for SEL (social-emotional learning) in preschool.
"It is almost impossible to capture Sara's warmth and energy on paper," said her nominator. "Watching her in the classroom is truly a gift to anyone who has the opportunity to see Sara in action. I believe she is truly a LifeChanger, and in her role, she is able to send children down the path of becoming positive, life-long learners."