November 23, 2014
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Gladstone's Golden Apple winner makes math fun
Herald photos by Jen Cowart
DATA DRIVEN: Nancy Sisti looks at her students' data daily, using the information she sees to drive her math instruction.

On Nov. 1, Gladstone Elementary School's math coach, Nancy Sisti, got a surprise visit from the Golden Apple award team, consisting of members of the R.I. Department of Education, Hasbro and NBC Channel 10. Sisti was teaching in a colleague's English Language Learner classroom at the time, helping the students with their multiplication when the surprise visit took place.

"The mother of a student from last year, Alex Chen, wrote in to nominate me," said Sisti, who has been known through the years for all she does to make learning fun, including dressing in character to make her lessons relevant for her students.

In the past, she has dressed as Nellie Fly, an 1880s reporter, Mrs. Olsen, a classroom teacher from the days of Little House on the Prairie, and as Ben Franklin. This year she'll be visiting the classrooms at Gladstone Elementary dressed as Mary Todd Lincoln.

After teaching for 23 years in Cranston and two years before that at Bay View Academy, Sisti has now taken on a new challenge, going from fourth grade teacher to math coach. She now spends her days making math fun for kids.

"I'm the only math coach in the building and right now I'm trying to super-service the top grades in the building: grades six, five, four and the ELL students," she said. "When I first came, they weren't excited about math. My goal is to keep them motivated and get them excited about math."

In order to do that, Sisti offers many rewards for her students. Ranging from stickers and books to certificates, students can earn awards in any number of ways, including getting the highest PTS3 scores in the class or being the most improved the next time around.

She also offers awards for those who memorize their multiplication facts and can show what they know on the Fast Math program used by the school.

With much responsibility on her plate, Sisti makes it work by only scheduling a 10-minute break for herself each day, moving from classroom to classroom and even eating lunch with the students, working with them during their recess periods as well. She works one-on-one with some students, while utilizing small groups for others and working with whole classrooms of students in other rooms throughout the day.

"It makes the day fly by, and it gives me more time to reach more classes," she said. "The students are even giving up their own time to work with me during their recess. It's amazing to me how many stay in for recess."

Sisti says she hopes to start an after-school program two days a week beginning in January in order to help kids reinforce their math skills.

Her responsibilities also include examining test data and working with her colleagues to implement what is derived from that data into their instruction and into her own instruction.

"I've always been a data person. I've always liked to look at the data and see what to do about problems," she said.

So far, Sisti is happy as Gladstone's new math coach and the winner of the Golden Apple Award.

"I like my new position. It's a new challenge and it shows me how hard all of the teachers in this school work. The teachers here [at Gladstone] are very hardworking and very patient," she said.


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