Meet Ms. Marisa Misbach, Common Ground English Teacher!

Meet Ms. Misbach, Common Ground English Teacher!

By Luis Diaz, Angel Mercado, Jetaly Traverso, Amelia Bragg-Phillips, and Izabella Eichensehr, Education Change Interns

Ms. Marisa Misbach joined our team in November, stepping in to teach English as Ms. Jennifer Burke took responsibility for reading intervention, leading our 10th grade team, and other roles. We are really lucky to have this New Haven native, with a life-long love of teaching and working with young people, on our team!

What’s your job at Common Ground?

I am the Core 10 English teacher. I also teach Nature Lit to students in grades 9 to 12, and help Ms. Burke with her 10th grade guidance group, which I really enjoy.

What are your previous work experiences? 

This is my fourth year of teaching.  I graduated from Southern in 2019, and knew I wanted to be in the classroom right away. At the end of August, I got hired at Mauro Sheriden, and taught 8th grade students for three years. We went remote in March of my first year, so my second year of teaching was online and the last two months were hybrid. I always joke that last year was my first “real” year of teaching, after being online for so long.  

What jobs have you had beyond teaching? What skills do they help you bring to teaching?

Teaching was my first “big girl” job. Before that, starting when I was 19, I worked for New Haven Parks and Rec summer camps. At first I worked at a camp at Beecher School, then moved to Lighthouse Point. I worked with 5 year olds in camp; that taught me I was more excited about working with high school students. 

As I moved up, I became a more skilled counselor, and then a camp director.  As a director, I had some experience working with parents, filling out paperwork, and planning programs, which helped prepare me to be a teacher. 

While I was in college, I also tutored in the writing center, which helped me learn to interact with older students.

What part of CG made you come here? What makes you want to stay? What motivates you to work here? 

The size is definitely a big thing for me, the small school community – it’s similar to when I was going to high school myself. Also, the connection to the larger community is something I appreciate. It’s not just that we go to school here; we do things for people in the surrounding community as well. 

Related to that, I appreciate the social justice aspect of the school, how it’s integrated into every class. Before coming back to New Haven, I worked with high schoolers as a student teacher in Milford. It was really different; students gave me push back on watching The Color Purple. Seniors would ask me, “why do I need to learn about people of color?” 

The students are also a big motivator for me. I see a lot of passion in our students, a lot of motivation to get things done. Even when a student is less motivated, I like the challenge of figuring out how to push them to get the job done. When I see students putting in the effort, that keeps me going. 

I also love the English content, to spread that love to students. Some students may struggle with reading and writing, but I’m happy when they learn to appreciate it.   

What made you want to be an educator? 

When I was a kid I would love to play school with my younger brother and stuffed animals, so I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I went through phases where I was interested in different careers, but I always came back to teaching. 

When I was in high school I found out you had to pick a specification for teaching, so I started out in elementary and special education. I very quickly realized that I was not interested in teaching younger kids.  I decided to move to secondary school, so that I could hopefully have more interactive conversations with students.  

What’s your approach to teaching/helping students?

My approach to teaching or helping students is to be real with them, and give you choices about how you learn. You usually know best what you need to learn. I try to be understanding and flexible. I’m a big believer of that mutual learning experience that students and teachers have.

I don’t like to give answers – I like to ask lots of questions. I like to push students, make students work for it. I will make sure they have the resources they need. Students need to meet me halfway. If you put in effort, I can help you.  

I am always trying to learn and grow, too. I got my Master’s right after my Bachelor’s degree. Now, I am working on my 6th Year degree, to keep working on my skills as a teacher.

What were you like as a student?

I was a very shy kid. When I was in kindergarten, I barely ever talked to anyone.  I struggled talking to my teachers, and if I had a question I would make my friend ask for me. Being in school always gave me a lot of anxiety.  Eventually, though, I did come out of my shell. I wish I had told myself earlier to have more confidence in myself and my abilities.

My high school experience was in many ways not very different from Common Ground.  I went to High School in the Community. It was a very small school, like Common Ground. We called teachers by their first names. It was very close-knit; everyone knew everyone. I played softball for Cross. I took a SCSU class my senior year, which I know Common Ground students do too, and that set me up for success later on.

Looking back, I guess I would have been considered a nerd by other students, but none of that really mattered to me.  I cared about my grades, because my parents would be on me if I wasn’t!

What advice would you give a current CG student? 

Just showing that you’re trying and giving your best effort goes a long way with teachers. If they see you’re trying to meet them halfway, they are willing to help you get across the rest of the way. Your best may not be someone else’s best, but if you’re motivated and making progress that is still something worth celebrating.         

What’s one change you’d like to see at CG, and why?

In terms of academic changes, the reading and writing stamina of students has been greatly impacted by the pandemic.  Attention spans are much smaller than they were. I want to see more engagement in lessons, and students to be present and interactive in the classroom. 

What’s something positive that’s stayed the same throughout your time at CG? 

Overall the close knit community has been something positive. I felt really welcomed by all the staff here, and appreciate that a lot. I also feel like the reception of the students has been really positive. 

What do you want students and families to know about you as a person? 

I grew up in New Haven, near Lighthouse Beach. I was raised here, and all my education was in New Haven. I went to elementary school at Nathan Hale, then High School in the Community, then to Southern. Now I live in Wallingford with my boyfriend. 

Outside of teaching, I am very much an advocate for social justice issues. I would rather read about experiences I don’t have, and learn about things I don’t know. I don’t want to read about things that are really relatable. I like learning.

At the end of the day, though, I am 25. I like hanging out with friends, going to the beach, and watching movies.


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