We are pleased to recognize Cas Macsisak as our October Graider of the Month. Cas made a fast and lasting impression as a Graider by bringing a remarkable energy and care to the grading and feedback process. This fall, Cas has worked with five different secondary English Language Arts teachers, and they were repeatedly lauded for providing spot-on, specific feedback to students with excellent attention to detail and communication skills to boot. When it comes to learning how to give effective feedback, Cas models after their mom, who Cas says does not shy away from delivering hard news but also always helps plan the next steps.
Cas is unflappable, which comes in handy when balancing college with a full-time job as a para-educator. Cas works as a teaching assistant at Spectrum Charter School, a school serving children with autism spectrum disorders. The unique learning needs of the students have taught Cas that “when giving feedback, it is more than what you say, it is how you say it.” Cas has learned to approach tough topics gently and anchor them with a lot of praise. While they are naturally quick to identify ways for students to improve, articulating the students specific areas of strength requires more effort. This is a skill Cas has strengthened through The Graide Network. Now they are just as quick to identify the good in a student’s work as the ways to improve. As Cas continues to hone skills in accurately evaluating student work and providing effective feedback, their ability to remain consistent between students is top of mind. As many teachers have experienced, Cas recognizes that remaining objective and keeping the learning standards in mind is critical.
What is behind Cas’ drive to teach? For years friends and family lobbied them to become an educator, citing a special patience for helping others and passion for learning. We see it too. Cas lights up when they talk about reading and responding to students’ papers in part because it presents them with an opportunity to learn about new topics. Cas fondly remembers a middle school English and journalism teacher who made a lasting impression on the type of teacher they aspire to be – one that connects with students through playful nicknames and engaging in meaningful personal discussions.
Cas faces a unique challenge in fulfilling this vision because they identify as non-binary. Many social norms are lost on the children at Spectrum, so they are refreshingly direct with their questions. “Are you a man or a woman? Should I call you Mr. or Ms. Macsisak?” Cas has opted for neither, but a simple “Cas”. While the use of formal titles for educators is common practice—the theory in part about commanding respect—Cas has not experienced any discernable effect. Both students and colleagues have been supportive. As we talk, Cas’ voice warms with gratitude when describing how other teachers have sought out appropriate places to ask their preferences and then speak on their behalf when students have questions.
Cas’ quiet confidence when describing the challenges of not identifying with traditional gender constructs is remarkable. It reveals a person ready and willing to engage in dialogue, a steadfast advocate for inclusion, and a professional well accustomed to operating in challenging environments. We are excited to watch Cas continue to develop as an educator and make a difference for more and more students.
Congratulations, Cas, on being our Graider of the Month!
Cas is pursuing a degree is secondary English with a certification in special education at Point Park University. Cas works as a para-educator at Spectrum Charter School and enjoys exploring the city of Pittsburgh.