by Kate Evans
Paw Paw Schools special education teacher Tessa Palumbo received the Morgan County Schools Mary Linn Fox Memorial Award for First Year Teacher at the March 30 school board meeting.
Palumbo has two bachelor’s degrees-one in psychology and the other in elementary/middle school education along with a master’s degree in special education-all from Frostburg State University.
Palumbo said she did several student internships in Allegany County Schools-a first grade internship at Westernport Elementary for two weeks, a 30-day sixth grade internship in English language arts at Braddock Middle School in Cumberland and a 15-week internship with fourth and second grades at Cash Valley Elementary in La Vale, Maryland.
Palumbo was inspired to become a teacher because she is in a wheelchair. She said that when she was in school that all of her teachers pushed her aside. Palumbo said she grew from that experience, got good grades, took high honors and graduated with a 4.0 when she got her master’s degree.
Palumbo said she wanted to be a teacher and be an inspiration for students so they would see “that no matter what your education or limitations that they can pursue anything they want to.”
Palumbo said she works with students one-to-one, mostly middle and high school students, and also pushes into the regular Paw Paw High School classes to support her students. She has one elementary school student.
Palumbo works with students on mostly English language arts and math. Her specialty is English language arts. She likes school literature and reading and is going for her second master’s degree in reading education. Her first student went from not reading any words to knowing 250 sight words.
Her teaching philosophy
Palumbo said that her teaching philosophy is that “every child can be successful.” She always lets them know that she knows they can succeed.
Palumbo said she re-teaches to students what regular teachers have taught them in a language that kids can understand. She tries to get to know their interests and gain more rapport with them. It’s hard for students to accept someone sitting next to them in the classroom helping them while their peers are right next to them.
An amazing school
Palumbo said that she works with an amazing staff at Paw Paw Schools and that they are there for her every step of the way-administrators, teachers and others. If she has a problem, she can turn to her teacher colleagues.
“I’m proud to be at Paw Paw Schools. I couldn’t see my teaching in these circumstances and being a first year teacher without the support of staff at Paw Paw Schools. It’s an amazing school,” Palumbo said.
Palumbo said she feels like she knows each kid and enjoys greeting them in the morning. Wishing them a good night is a pleasure.
Palumbo recently became the Paw Paw High School head track coach and is also the school’s Student Assistance Team (SAT) coordinator. When teachers have student concerns, the team comes up with strategies, she said.
Palumbo also shows American Quarter Horses at competitions in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Texas. She has one retired show horse and one new horse. They help you de-stress and start the week, she said.
Palumbo’s advice to other beginning teachers is to try to build those personal relationships with colleagues. “[T]hat’s what gets you through. Look to them for advice and guidance,” she said.
Take interest in your students and let them know you care about their outside world.
Palumbo said she wasn’t expecting the First Year Teacher award and is very humbled to have received it.
“It meant the world to me — it is the top award I have gotten.”
Palumbo loves the school and her kids and is grateful that they took a chance on her.
Paw Paw Schools Principal Melinda Kasekamp said that Palumbo “has brought a strong work ethic and outstanding collaborative skills to our school. She has high expectations for her students and helps them achieve her vision for each of them. She has excellent classroom management skills and is very organized.”
Palumbo has also established strong relationships with K-12 students and staff, Kasekamp said. Her classroom climate is warm and she is successful in all aspects of teaching. Palumbo’s elementary reading instruction that Kasekamp has observed is challenging, research-focused and intense.
Palumbo is flexible, an incredible team player and her whole approach to education is student-centered, Kasekamp noted.
Palumbo “became our SAT coordinator for the school and is an excellent example to our students that a disability can be overcome through personal strength. She exemplifies everything that we at Paw Paw schools believe in. She is a champion of our special needs students and their success becomes her success,” Kasekamp said.