Early Childhood General and Special Education '13
I feel it is very important to bring to light all of the diversity in New York City, and Bank Street has been instrumental in inspiring the curriculum that we use in our program.
Misha Paskar’s motivation to earn a graduate degree at Bank Street was to better understand the development of her own children, but with the new knowledge she gained, an unexpected career in teaching opened. She started working as an assistant teacher at Downtown Little School in Manhattan and advanced to head teacher before moving to the Katmint Learning Initiative in Brooklyn as a lead teacher and then to the YMCA of Greater New York, where she taught in 4K classrooms at the YMCA of Greater New York. There, Misha moved from teacher to educational leader, landing the role of assistant director and later director of the West Side YMCA Early Childhood Center.
Misha said, “The truth is, I never knew I would work in the world of education. I came into it from a selfish place of wanting to understand early childhood development so that I could be a better parent. I went to school at Bank Street and graduated, and until then, that was my only connection to the world of teaching. But it was life-changing.”
Misha’s Bank Street experience positioned her on the path of discovering and developing a passion for leading teachers to identify and correct implicit bias in their classrooms.
“I guess what I really love about this leadership job is that now I am charged with inspiring both teachers and kids. I enjoy leading professional development activities where there are conversations around implicit bias, which can automatically and unintentionally affect judgments, decisions, and behaviors. In these sessions, there are so many a-ha moments when teachers realize their biases. Being able to see how those sparks go off when they get it—that’s what I live for in this role,” she said.
With this focus on implicit bias, Misha takes pride in helping her colleagues learn how to apply important concepts about self-identity and respect in their early childhood classrooms.
“From my experience teaching 4K children, I’ve noticed that by the end of the year, the topic of race starts to come up in conversation. At this age, children start to really self-identify and want to talk about color. It’s important to talk about diversity so that all children have positive exposure to different cultures, and it’s the teacher’s job to know how to bring these concepts into their classroom” she said.
To support her professional development efforts, Misha has stayed connected to Bank Street through the Bank Street College Alumni Association (BSCAA) Social Justice Committee, which provides an outlet for many alumni to share interactive, practice-based lessons learned with the Bank Street community.
In partnership with the BSCAA Social Justice Committee, Misha is hosting a group of Bank Street alumni in February 2023 at the Upper West YMCA’s Annual Black Excellence Exhibit, which features artwork by children in the YMCA’s Early Childhood program. The event will provide a forum for the YMCA classroom teachers to discuss the impact of working with the children on the schoolwide exhibit and the opportunity for Bank Street educators to connect with the YMCA’s 3K and 4K teachers for shared discussions about educational equity and justice for every child.
Misha said, “This is our third Annual Black Excellence Exhibit. It is one of our major events, which begins in September and continues even after Black History Month ends in February. The exhibit is our opportunity to share the work our school does to highlight Black history. I feel it is very important to bring to light all of the diversity in New York City, and Bank Street has been instrumental in inspiring the curriculum that we use in our program.”