HIGHBRIDGE, the Bronx — If you have been lucky enough to have had that one teacher who made a difference in your life, you know you will remember that educator for years to come. For thousands of Bronx students over the past two decades, that teacher has been Roseanna Gulisano.
“Miss G,” as her students call her, said her mission is to increase hope in the community through literacy. She’s doing it one child at a time. Gulisano is the second finalist in PIX11 News’ Remarkable Women Series.
“My dream and my life purpose is to serve the children and the families who need it most,” Gulisano told PIX11 News.
Teaching children to read is more than a job, or even a career for Gulisano. It is her life’s passion, and her commitment is not just to the students.
“It was important not to stay at a school, but to stay in this school,” said Gulisano. “This is a very specific community of close-knit families, they accepted me like their own.”
The community is the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Guliasano, a west coast transplant, moved to New York City for a teaching fellows’ program. Upon receiving a master’s degree, she was immediately placed in a public school in an underserved community in the Bronx. At P.S. 11 the Highbridge School, she is a teacher and the school librarian.
“I’ve seen miracles happen over and over again,” said Gulisano.
Under the terms of the fellowship, she only had to remain at the school for two years. She has now been at P.S.11, for 20 years. Over those two decades, she has taught thousands of students.
“What I learned is reading books is it’s fun,” said fourth grader Angel Carrasquillo. “When you grow up, you have more knowledge and then you can use your knowledge in your career.”
School counselor Ana Del Rosario and a group of other P.S. 11 educators nominated Gulisano as for PIX11 News’ Remarkable Women Series.
“She goes way beyond being just a librarian, she like really looks out for the community as a whole,” said Del Rosario.
Del Rosario also told PIX11 News about Gulisano’s efforts during the pandemic. Gulisano organized food and clothing drives to hand out necessities to families in need. Many students had parents unable to work while the city was in lockdown.
“As a school counselor you always see who’s in need and you always want to help and it’s not always possible to help,” said Del Rosario. “But Miss Gulisano has made it easy to always be able to help, whether a student needs a backpack, clothing, socks, food, anything, I know I can call her.”
But what will likely be her legacy to this community are her libraries. She has overseen the creation of two libraries, one in the main building, the other in the annex for the younger children.
“My vision was to have the children create their dream library,” said Gulisano. “I called it a reading playground.”
In 2013, she entered and won the highly selective Library REACH grant. Her entry was so compelling, organizers, with help from American Girl, more than doubled the original amount to $25,000. American Girl also donated their line of historical dolls, accompanying each doll is a book with that doll’s background story.
The funding gave P.S. 11 the new libraries, but it was Gulisano who turned it into a harmonious and serene environment, with the bean bags to the luscious greenery, children can pick up a book and read comfortably.
But along the way, Guilisano also realized the importance of certain books for her students.
“When the kids say we need books that look like us, we need to read with our families, we have to listen to that and take action,” said Gulisano. “These are formative years, what they learn now in their reading carries them through life.”
On top of teaching six classes a day, to students from pre-K to fifth grade, Gulisano has now taken on fundraising. Her initiative has even caught the attention of big-name donors, like Caroline Kennedy.
The donations help Gulisano launch her “Home Library Program.” She gives books to children for free, so they may take them home to build their own libraries.
“The children are choosing their own books,” said Gulisano. “They’re able to have a home library with books right there at their fingertips.”
Kardiatou Kady Sylla is a parent volunteer who works with Gulisano. Her daughter is in one of Gulisano’s classes. Sylla is not surprised Gulisano has been named a Remarkable Woman.
“She’s a phenomenal woman individually, she always works with the parents and the community and that love and caring for her students comes from the heart,” said Sylla. “That touches me a lot.”