Stefanie Sanabria, a Bronx native with an unwavering commitment to education, community service, and personal growth, has charted an inspiring path to success and giving back.

Born and raised in the vibrant Bronx, Stefanie’s educational journey began at IONA College in New Rochelle, where she pursued her dreams with exceptional dedication. At IONA, she earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, majoring in Speech Communications and later specializing in Education with a Master’s in Teaching. Her academic prowess shone brightly, graduating Summa Cum Laude and consistently securing a place on the Dean’s List throughout her studies.

Stefanie’s passion for knowledge and her commitment to academic excellence extended into her involvement with Delta Epsilon Sigma, a national honor society for students, faculty, and alumni of Catholic colleges and universities. Additionally, she pledged and became an active member of the local sorority Phi Gamma Chi, located on the IONA campus. Through Phi Gamma Chi, Stefanie engaged in numerous community service projects, exemplified by initiatives like “The Midnight Run,” which provided vital assistance to homeless individuals. She also displayed her philanthropic spirit during challenging times, notably after Hurricane Sandy when she and her friends collected essential items and clothing for disaster victims. Her dedication to humanitarian causes extended to donations made to organizations like WWF and ASPCA.

Stefanie’s commitment to education and her exemplary teaching skills earned her a nomination for the prestigious Big Apple Teaching Award, showcasing her dedication to shaping young minds. Her exceptional achievements continued in 2022 when she was nominated for inclusion in the publication “Who’s Who in America?”

One of Stefanie’s most significant contributions to her community was her role as a founding member of P.S. 481 X The Steam Bridge School, which opened its doors in the Bronx in 2015. Her unwavering commitment to the school and its students continued until 2021 when her Kindergarten class achieved the distinction of becoming the first graduating class. The innovative model of P.S. 481 X began with Kindergarten and added a grade each year until reaching grade 5.

Beyond the classroom, Stefanie displayed her passion for fostering school spirit and teamwork as part of the founding team of cheerleading at P.S. 108 X, The Phillip J. Abinati school. Her team’s annual participation in the Christopher Columbus Day parade became a cherished tradition.

Stefanie’s personal journey is marked by numerous milestones, including being the first and only Sanabria in her family to graduate from college. She even tested her talents in the realm of entertainment by auditioning for shows like Pop Stars and The Voice.

Amidst her remarkable accomplishments, Stefanie cherishes her hobbies, which revolve around spending quality time with her friends, Sorority Sisters, nieces, her mother, and her loyal canine companion. Her life story is a testament to the boundless possibilities that come with dedication, education, and a deep-seated commitment to the community. Stefanie Sanabria’s journey continues to inspire those who have the privilege of knowing her, and her impact on education and service remains indelible.

How did you get started in Education?

I became interested in Education after the kidney transplant from my dad began failing. I had to go on dialysis for three hours, three days a week and began thinking of my life retrospectively and decided that I wanted a career where I could give back. At the dialysis center, I spoke to a Social Worker about some of the things I was experiencing now that I was on dialysis and my career choice came up.  The social worker encouraged me to apply for a scholarship through the National Kidney Foundation to go back to school to become a teacher. I applied and received a partial scholarship, and from there I went back to school to get my Master’s in Teaching from Iona college. This career has been the most fulfilling part of my life.

How do you make money?

I have worked in the Public School system for nearly 20 years, specifically in New York City with the Department of Education.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

Upon starting out in my first year of teaching, I was placed at one school as a first grade teacher. I had 20 students and there were 5 first grade classes with 20 students each. The school decided to condense the classes and make each class with 25 students. I, being the newest teacher hired, was then excessed, meaning I no longer had a teaching job. Luckily, another school picked me up as a long term substitute to cover a teacher going on maternity leave. The principal was so impressed by me, that she then created a lower elementary Science position so she could keep me at her school until the following year, when she gave me my own Kindergarten classroom.

What is one strategy that you’re using that works really well to get the students on the road to success?

I truly believe that achievement is possible for all students, but that comes from having high expectations and being able to differentiate instruction based on the students’ individual needs.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

I have an attitude of perseverance and hope.  Because of the many challenges I have faced personally, in my health, I have somehow managed to always come out of the situation and never adopted a victim mentality. It is that belief system that I want to relay to my students.

What has been your most satisfying moment as an educator?

I have managed to consistently have the most successful students come out of my classrooms. So much so that when the school chooses their Measures of Student Learning, which is part of how the NYCDOE rates schools, the school has consistently chosen to use my grade as their measurement because of the amazing growth that takes place in my class.  It is not unusual for a Kindergartner to leave my class reading above grade level, many students reading on levels equivalent to third grade!

What does the future hold for you and what are you most excited about?

Just to continue to be a teacher that students can continue to learn and grow from.

What books have inspired you?

I look to the bible for inspiration, and faith.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I would tell myself exactly what my dad has told me and what I tell my students.  You can succeed at anything you do, but you must try to do the thing that you were meant to do.  A calling is more important than a career.


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