Today, we spotlight Misa Sato, an award-winning assistant principal who recently earned the prestigious NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year title. Serving at Reagan High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Misa has made a profound impact through her dynamic approach to educational leadership. Under her guidance, the school has not only seen significant growth in its International Baccalaureate (IB) Career Program, but also received numerous awards for student achievement.
In this episode, Misa shares her journey, discussing her proudest accomplishments, her experiences of implementing and expanding the IB Career-Related Program, and how she's fostered the critical connection between students, parents, and the wider community. This episode is a must-listen for those looking for inspiration on how to be a great assistant principal and seeking practical advice on successfully navigating the challenges of school leadership.
So, tune in to explore Misa's remarkable story, and don't miss her nuggets of wisdom that could help you make a meaningful difference in your role as an assistant principal. Remember, you're just a podcast away from becoming an even better leader!
Table of Contents
Promoting Real World Change and Success in Schools Today
Misa Sato, NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year
Misa Sato serves as Assistant Principal of Reagan High School, an International Baccalaureate high school in Milwaukee Public Schools.
Misa’s mission is to foster a school culture based on respect and high-expectations. Her leadership emphasizes student and staff well-being, with students knowing the school values their contributions.
Reagan has seen dramatic gains in student achievement. It was awarded the Wisconsin RtI Center Gold Award in Reading, Behavior, and Math in 2021 and 2022, and students are outperforming their peers statewide on a number of key measures.
With Sato’s leadership, the school’s IB Career Program has grown from 7 to 155 students, with pathways in Health Science, Technology, and Education. Misa works for the IB Organization, providing schools with professional development and supporting the implementation programs.
Misa has earned a Masters degree in Educational Policy and Leadership at Marquette University and an MBA in Education Leadership at Milwaukee School of Engineering.
This transcript was generated by AI within Adobe Audition but edited and proofread by me, Vicki Davis. If you see something I missed, leave a comment or contact me. Some editing may have been done for clarity of written text. Thanks!
00:00:00:00 – 00:00:28:27
Vicki: Welcome to the Ten Minute Teacher Podcast; I'm your host, Vicki Davis.
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Introducing Misa Sato, Finalist (And Now the Winner of) – NASSP Assistant Principal of the Year
Today, we're talking to Misa Sato about her remarkable work as an assistant principal at Reagan High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
00:00:29:00 – 00:00:57:24
Under Misa Sato's leadership, the school has received numerous awards for student achievement and has seen significant growth in its International Baccalaureate Career Program. She is dedicated to her students and committed to creating diverse teaching opportunities – truly inspiring. Today, we're exploring her story and her impact on her school and community. She is one of three nominees for the NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year.
Note from Vicki: Since this was recorded, Misa won this award! Congratulations, Misa!
00:00:57:25 – 00:01:22:02
Vicki: Thank you for joining us on the show, Misa. What are some of the changes and accomplishments you're most proud of?
Misa's Best Accomplishments as Assistant Principal – IB Career Related Programs
One of the things I'm most proud of is the growth of our IB Career-Related Program. The IB Career-Related Program, a relatively new initiative that started around 2010 in the IB, saw Reagan High as one of the first schools authorized to become an IB Career-Related Program.
00:01:22:06 – 00:01:57:07
We gained authorization in 2013. Initially, the program offered two career pathways for students – Information Technology and Health Science.
Addition of the Education Pathway
About a year and a half ago, we started an Education Pathway. Students typically enroll in the program in their junior year or prior, doing career-focused coursework and fieldwork experiences and internships aligned with their career pathways. This allows us to connect students with the community and job opportunities currently available in Milwaukee.
Growth of the IB Career-Related Program
00:01:57:07 – 00:02:22:12
And we know that these opportunities are expanding across the US too. Currently, we have about 175 students in the program. We started with seven students in 2013, so we've seen some tremendous growth. But I also think that growth is tied to the job market that we're seeing, with kids spotting applicable jobs within Health Science, Information Technology, and Education.
What Students and Parents Are Saying About the Program
00:02:22:15 – 00:02:48:14
So, what are the students and the parents saying about the program?
The students are very invested. I think they find it intriguing to focus on something akin to a college major while still in high school. They take International Baccalaureate courses, which can earn them college credit, but they also get exposure to the community side, working as youth apprentices or interns.
00:02:48:15 – 00:03:08:19
Misa: Currently, we have several students working as Certified Nursing Assistants, and they're able to see how their coursework translates to their potential future careers. This is really exciting for us, for the students, and for the parents who are glad that we are helping their children make career connections while still in high school.
What If a Student Picks and Area of Focus and Decides It Isn't for Them: Is That a Problem?
00:03:08:22 – 00:03:24:26
Vicki: So, students don't have to wait until they go to college or post-high school to figure out their career paths. They are making decisions about their future careers a bit earlier, which does save time. So, what kind of impact does this have? This is a question I've heard a lot about this type of program.
00:03:24:26 – 00:03:48:02
What kind of impact does it have if a student picks a ‘major' or an area of focus and then realizes, “Hey, I'm not interested in this, I want to do something else.” Are they limited in any way by going on to college or changing fields? Does this limit them at all?
Absolutely not. In fact, we encourage them to explore and change their minds while in high school.
00:03:48:09 – 00:04:07:10
The beauty of this program is that they haven't yet invested thousands of dollars in college tuition before changing majors. They're making these informed decisions prior to that, and there's no harm in them switching or changing their minds.
00:04:07:10 – 00:04:37:02
We encourage them to explore their interests in high school so they don't have to go through this exploration phase while paying for college.
The Hardest Questions About Implementing the IB Career-Related Program at Her School and How She Answered Them
But let's take a step back. Change requires leadership, and new initiatives require leadership. Can you think of the hardest questions you've been asked since 2013, your thought process in that moment, and how you responded to those questions and led through the hardest questions?
00:04:37:07 – 00:04:59:11
I think one of the hardest questions was, “How are you going to build a team?”
At the school level, staff have a lot on their plates, and there are many extracurricular demands on teachers and administrators. Trying to build a team of people that can build capacity and also sustain it is a challenge.
00:04:59:11 – 00:05:19:05
That's something we've considered – how can we ensure that this program has staff involved who are truly committed to the mission but who also recognize that it requires extra work to make things happen and to establish those community connections for students outside of their workday.
00:05:19:05 – 00:05:41:19
Misa: Building a valuable team has been one of our challenges, but it's also the reason we're where we are today. We couldn't have gotten to this point without the involvement of our staff.
How Did You Recruit Teachers into the Program?
So, when you approached those teachers as the program was starting and you were trying to recruit them to the team, what did you say?
00:05:41:19 – 00:06:10:28
What's been very helpful is that I was previously a science teacher. Many of the teachers on our team are science teachers who are invested in the health science community outside of the school. Leveraging their existing relationships with community partners has been key. Staff are willing to invest their time when they see that their community partner is also part of this program.
[00:06:11;02 – 00:06:38;16]
So, they definitely appreciate the connection with the real world. This connection aligns with the core vibe of the work that teachers are already doing in their classrooms with their IB coursework. It also facilitates a more seamless transition for the students.
Wisdom for Assistant Principals
So, as assistant principals worldwide are listening to this podcast, there are unique challenges with being an assistant principal, right?
[00:06:38;19 – 00:06:57;04]
What do you think some of the biggest challenges are? And what's your encouragement to help others in your same position lead through the challenges of the current time? Because there were pre-pandemic times, then during the pandemic, and now post-pandemic. It seems like all of our jobs have changed a lot, right?
[00:06:57;07 – 00:07:16;12]
Definitely post-pandemic and definitely during the pandemic. I think my biggest piece of advice is to be flexible. Pre-pandemic, we probably could have said, “In five years, this is where we want our school or our programs to be.” Obviously, during and post-pandemic, everyone is trying to figure out what that looks like.
Flexibility Is Required
[00:07:16;15 – 00:07:37;25]
But, my biggest piece of advice as an assistant principal is to be flexible. Your day is never going to go as planned. Things will come up that you'll have to prioritize over other things. But we learned during the pandemic that flexibility from everyone is key. And it's also essential to be patient with people, students, and parents.
[00:07:37;25 – 00:07:59;25]
That, I think, is my biggest piece of advice.
We always joke about a “be” attitude. I once heard from a former pastor, “Blessed are the flexible, for they won't get bent out of shape.” And that's just where we are.
Message to Assistant Principals
So, as we finish up, you are one of the three nominees for National Assistant Principal of the Year. What is your message as you get opportunities to speak about the role of assistant principals?
[00:07:59;25 – 00:08:26;04]
Many school leaders say, “Without great assistant principals, it's really hard to have a great school.”
That's an excellent question. From my standpoint, I see my role as supporting both the students and the teachers. I feel like a lot of times, we're a good connection between those two groups of people, ensuring everyone can advocate for what they need. This has been incredibly important, especially post-pandemic.
[00:08:26;04 – 00:08:47;20]
We've seen students needing a lot more trauma-informed care and teachers needing a lot more support in how to handle that with students. I see my role as a connector, even with parents, right? So connecting parents with teachers is key, and ensuring this role exists in your school building is important.
[00:08:47;26 – 00:09:10;08]
Well, Misa Sato, this is a very exciting program, and it does take leadership to lead and create programs, especially during the past few years. It's exciting that your career program has grown so much. Thanks for being on the show.
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[00:09:10;08 – 00:09:47;28]
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[00:09:47;28 – 00:10:03;17]
You've been listening to the 10 Minute Teacher podcast. If you like this program you can find more at coolcatteacher.com. If you wish to see more content by Vicki Davis you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @coolcatteacher. Thank you for listening.
Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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