It’s been 15 years since Isabel DiSalvo was in Room 109 at Bridgeway Elementary School. Back then, she was a first grader in Ms. Sam Sokolowski’s class. Today, she is a second grade teacher in the same classroom.
She remembers almost everything about her first grade year: where she sat in the classroom, what the lockers looked like and how the technology is now just a little bit different. But more than anything, she remembers how she felt in that classroom.
“When setting up my classroom this summer, I tried to bring back that feeling of a very welcoming and happy place to be,” she said. “This was a place I wanted to come to every day and I really wanted to build that for my students.”
DiSalvo graduated from Pattonville High School in 2018 and then attended Murray State University to study elementary education. Returning to Bridgeway is a dream come true.
“At first, I didn’t think it would really be an option,” DiSalvo said. “I thought I’d just have to go with my goal of being a teacher in Pattonville, but then [building principal] Dr. (Bill) Casner called and offered me a job.”
She interviewed for positions in other districts and was nervous, but when walking into Bridgeway, she said she felt like she was home.
“Everything I worked for my entire life was right in front of me. This place and the people here really made me into the person that I am today, and so I knew I wanted to be that person for my own students.”
Her students are Bulldogs, and that’s because of a decision she made when she was in kindergarten.
“I sat in a classroom right down the hall when I was five years old and we picked the mascot,” she said. “We all got to vote and we had the option between a Bronco and a Bulldog, and I checked Bulldog. I was a part of what the school is now, and with coming back, I want to be a part of what it can be any way I can.”
In second grade, DiSalvo’s teacher, Ms. Robin Porzelt, had her complete a “What do you want to be when you grow up?” assignment, and DiSalvo said she wanted to be a teacher.
“I picked that because Ms. Porzelt really inspired me, and it was when I was in middle school that I realized just what a special community exists here.”
That’s when the Good Friday tornado hit the area and teachers from Bridgeway were out helping clean up her friend’s house.
“You don’t find that everywhere. They weren’t directly impacted. They lived maybe 30 minutes away, but they were there,” she said. “That’s another one of the reasons I knew where I wanted to be.”
In high school, DiSalvo was diagnosed with alopecia areata, an incurable form of hair loss, and said the Pattonville community is very accepting.
“I enjoyed the diversity that I grew up with. I was always surrounded by people that were different from me,” she said. “When it came time that I looked a little bit different, it wasn’t a big deal because we’d all grown up that way.”
She’s now been teaching at Bridgeway in the classroom she was once a student in for one week and it still feels like a dream. She even asked Bill (she worked all summer practicing calling former teachers by their first names) if this is real.
“It still feels like impostor syndrome,” she said. “This is the job I wanted more than anything in the world and now I feel like I am home. This is where I am supposed to be.”