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Educational Journey Leads Gold Star From Belgium to Bossier

There are some things that are universal and transcend any language barrier, one being the passion to teach. 

When Sandrina Isebaert first arrived at Benton Elementary nearly three decades ago from Belgium, all the young 23-year-old teacher knew was that she was going to teach French as an ambassador of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) program. Isebaert cannot help but look back at that time in her life and laugh. 

“That first year, I had to rely on students’ body language a lot to figure out if one of them had just said something inappropriate in class! Phone calls to parents were fun, too!” she exclaimed. 

Fast forward to the present and Isebaert is winding down her 30-year career in education and heading into retirement, but not before rising up the administrative ladder and making a name for herself in the Town of Plain Dealing. 

“I started applying for AP (assistant principal) positions and was lucky enough to apply with Aubrey Sayes (former principal) at Plain Dealing in 2008. Once I got here, I just fell in love with the community. It was then clear to me the only thing I wanted was to become the PDHS principal. That dream came true in 2014.” 

The dream did not come without challenges. Faced with a dwindling enrollment at nearby Carrie Martin Elementary, Isebaert found herself principal of the only PreK-12th grade campus in Bossier Parish. It was a challenge she eagerly embraced. 

“I have a tendency to get bored if I do the same thing for too long. So to me, the combining of the schools was an exciting time,” Isebaert explained. “I have a pretty logical mind, so working out the logistics of moving the bus ramp, having three different locations for breakfast, five lunch shifts, keeping students from different grade bands away from others, moving just about every teacher to a different room and making schedules work so that teachers could teach across grade bands was just fun!” 

Another big challenge was to bring what was a low-performing school to one with a ‘B’ letter grade, a feat that has bolstered Lion Pride and community support. Shanna Malone teaches at PDHS and marvels at how Isebaert juggles it all and has made such a difference.  

“Our community school is the heart of our town. Her former students are familiar with her integrity and know that in her role as principal, their children are always a priority.” Malone went on to say, “Ms. Isebaert loves her students and knows each one on a personal basis. I have learned the power of greeting each student by name daily, knowing their families and the importance of staying positive each day from watching her. Her retirement will leave a huge hole in the heart of Plain Dealing.” 

“From the time she joined the Plain Dealing family, Ms. Isebaert has gone above and beyond to make Plain Dealing the place to ‘B,’” Susan Bogard added. “As a teacher, I can say that she has never asked us to do something that she wasn’t willing to do herself. As a parent, I watched her do her absolute best to keep the school (and my son) safe during the most critical days of the pandemic. She has worn many hats at the helm of our school, seeing over our transition to a PreK-12 school, welcoming new children and new faculty members with kindness and grace. She has always, ALWAYS led by example, serving both as a role model for the students and the faculty.” 

The love the faculty and student body have for Isebaert is evident, especially so when several nominated her for Bossier Schools’ Gold Star employee award. It was a surprise Isebaert was not expecting when she walked into a crowded gymnasium to thunderous applause, but an honor she will forever remember. 

“Plain Dealing is a family,” Isebaert reflected. “We might not have as many outside resources as others, but we have heart and my teachers are always willing to do whatever is necessary for our students.” 

“She’s been a rock for the PDHS community, she’s been bleeding red and black for the PD Lions for 16 years!” Assistant Principal Dr. Anita Szombathelyi concluded. We thank Ms. Isebaert for her selfless commitment, dedication and support of PDHS from the bottom of our hearts!” 

Editor’s note: Know someone who works for Bossier Schools that is deserving of recognition for going above and beyond? Nominate them for the Gold Star award, proudly sponsored for the 11th year by Bossier Federal Credit Union. Visit https://bit.ly/3oAP4Mi to tell what sets them apart and be watching for our next Gold Star surprise.