River Trail teacher named ‘Innovation’ educator

Amy Palermo earns $5K award for school



JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – Amy Palermo, in only her second full year as an English/language arts teacher at River Trail Middle School, has already been singled out for statewide recognition for her fresh ideas about teaching sixth-graders.

Palermo has been selected by Gov. Nathan Deal and the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement as one of the winners of the Innovation in Teaching Competition that recognizes teachers who demonstrate innovative teaching strategies for Georgia standards in English/language arts and mathematics.

Palermo didn’t even know she had been nominated by River Trail’s sixth-grade Vice Principal Laura Ogan in October 2013 until she was notified by the governor’s office to submit a lesson plan about a novel for her talented and gifted (TAG) class as part of the nomination process.

“I incorporated a lot more technology into it this year. I had iPads included, I created a blog for my students and they did audio ‘boos,’ which are like an audio recording through an iPad app,” Palermo said.

Among their assignments, the students had to comment on the blog and record topics on the “boos” for the science fiction/fantasy book, “A Wrinkle in Time” (1962) by Madeleine L’Engle, which won the Newbery Medal.

As part of her submission, Palermo created a video to explain her lesson plan.

“I had a lot of fun creating the video. I got the kids involved and related it to sky-diving. So the [judges] looked over everything, and I was notified a couple of weeks ago I received the award,” she said.

For her efforts, Palermo was awarded a $2,000 stipend, and River Trail will receive a $5000 grant for the implementation of the Georgia Instructional Standards.

Perhaps more important was the way Palermo’s students reacted to their teacher’s plan for studying and evaluating the book through blogs and audio boos.

“They loved it,” she said. “It’s a great way for students to have an educational component within [the curriculum] and not even realize it.

“They were incorporating the standards and the skills that were part of the unit and in a fun way. That was my first time incorporating those skills in the unit plan,” she said.

Using the school’s iPads, computers and the media center, students used the technology available as a tool to a greater end.

“It was great to see them share with each other – how to add a photo to a report, for instance. They took the accessibility and the diversity of these educational tools to find their own information,” Palermo said.

She won’t be resting on her laurels. Palermo said she will be looking at what her peers are doing and learn from her colleagues.

In fact, one of the ways the school is looking at using the $5,000 grant is to develop ways for teachers to share what they are doing.

As for the $2,000 stipend awarded to Palermo, it came with no strings attached.

“So I guess it will go to paying off student loans,” she said.

JCH 02-26-14

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