We recognize SASF veteran and 175X program director, Tina Gisante. Tina has been with SASF for over a decade and her site recently received an “Excellent” on her PQMT. Plus, Councilmember Vacca paid her site a surprise visit and posted it all over social media! Check out her interview with us.
Tell us how you first got involved in with SASF! How long have you been with SASF? 175X?
My association with P.S. 175 began many years before my involvement in SASF. My son attended the school and I was active in the PTA, serving as president for several terms. This led to the opportunity to be Parent Coordinator, a position that I have held since 2003. I have been the SASF director since the program was first introduced to P.S. 175 in 2006.
What are you most proud of about 175x programs?
I am fortunate to have a dedicated staff who work in the school during regular school hours. Each day they “re-energize” themselves after a full day’s work to meet the demands of the after-school program. They know each student well from every aspect – academic, physical, social, and emotional; they provide enrichment, guidance, and learning in ways that are designed to engage the students in the process. I am proud that I work with an educational specialist who can bridge the gap between the academic day and the after-school program creating both coherence and clarity.
We heard that Councilmember James Vacca paid you a surprise visit recently – he even shared the moment on social media! What was that like?
Councilman James Vacca has played an integral role in the inception of SASF at P.S. 175. The SASF program was limited to Title I schools, but Councilman Vacca used his political influence to persuade SASF to waive that restriction, arguing that the program would provide a safe and stimulating environment for our middle school students. The program offered a viable alternative to hanging out in the City Island streets where the allure of drugs and alcohol present temptations to our youth.
This summer, Councilman James Vacca recently surprised our school with an unannounced visit. As always, students and staff welcomed his visit and view his appearances as opportunities to express our appreciation of his continuing support of SASF at P.S. 175. We are proud of our program and enjoy showcasing our students and activities to the Councilman.
Tell me about someone who has inspired you at SASF.
Each day, I am inspired by the staff and students of P.S. 175 who together have created a community of learners with the common goal of supporting one another to achieve personal aspirations. However, my greatest inspiration is my principal and mentor, Amy Lipson. She teaches by example, and it is through this association that I have honed my leadership skills. My ability to effectively communicate and inspire stems from the observation of her style of leadership and from her tutelage. From Amy, I have learned to expect high expectations from students and staff but to temper demands with empathy and patience. Although she is not officially in SASF, she is involved in every aspect of life at P.S. 175. Her guidance continues to be influential to the success of the SASF program. I also, have to say Marisol Guzman, my very first Program Manager, and Martha Agosto have been very strong role models for me. Their commitment to SASF is contagious and inspiring.
What three traits define you?
With much humility, I would say that I am flexible. To the occasional chagrin of my colleagues, I am always willing to make program exceptions and adaptations to fit the needs and desires of some of the students. Flexibility serves me well when unforeseen circumstances require last minute decisions and schedule changes.
I also believe that empathy is one of my strengths, stemming from my ability to listen with both heart and mind. So often, people just want to tell their stories to a sympathetic ear. Along with listening, I try to dispense some guidance with a few pearls of wisdom and perhaps some therapeutic humor.
Perhaps my most useful trait is communication skills combined with insight. This ability serves me well in finding the right words to defuse an angry student, comfort a tearful child, pacify a disgruntled parent, and encourage a frustrated teacher.
What do you think is the most important quality you need to have for success?
Achieving a balance is an important quality for a program administrator as well as all the constituents, – teachers and students. As an administrator, I need to know when to balance high expectations with humanity, when to enforce the rules and when to bend them, when to discipline and when to forgive, when to fight and when to surrender, when to lead and when to follow. Maintaining this balance is the work of a lifetime but its lessons are learned in the classroom and in the workplace. This equilibrium is at the heart of the success of the SASF at P.S. 175.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
My greatest achievement is the development of leadership in the SASF program at P.S. 175. This is exemplified by the dedicated staff who lead by example, by talented 8th graders who choreograph dance routines and teach guitar to younger students, by students who volunteer to tutor struggling students, by our young athletes who know that how you play the game is more important than winning, and by students who support SASF outreach projects with infectious enthusiasm. Our summer staff is enriched by the recruitment of many former students who thrive in their role as counsellors and inspire our youth with their example.