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Belle Vernon's Carol Aten Frow finalist for state Teacher of the Year honor

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Carol Aten Frow conducts a sixth-grade English lesson at Bellmar Middle School in Belle Vernon. Picture taken May 13, 2013.

The thoughts of young Carol Aten Frow whirled around as rapidly as each stroke of her pencil on blank paper.

It would be difficult to tear her away.

But her third grade teacher, Ms. Stillitano, told her she could be a writer and encouraged her to unleash her wild imagination.

“She inspired me,” Frow said. “From that point, she made me love school.”

Now, Frow is determined to be that inspiration for her own students. She is one of the 12 teachers who have been selected as finalists for the prestigious Pennsylvania's 2014 Teacher of the Year award.

Frow, who has been a teacher with the Belle Vernon Area School District for 16 years, is a semifinalist.

“If this is your craft and you love working with kids, you want to know how you stack up against others in the state, and she's pretty darn good,” said John Grice, Frow's supervisor and principal of Bellmar Middle School.

Frow teaches English to sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. She previously worked at a private Catholic school in Monessen.

“She sets the bar high to make sure the kids are college-ready and career-ready,” Grice said. “It's her passion.”

Over the school year, she works with students one-on-one to develop their personal writing style and experiment with new sentence structure.

“It's a joy to watch them become writers at this age,” she said. “I like the look on their faces when they just discovered something.”

In addition to teaching, Frow volunteers to lead several activities after school.

Each of her students contributes to a literary magazine, called Tales from the Leopard's Den, by writing poetry, short stories, essays or plays.

The magazine is one of the top ranked by the National Council for Teachers of English.

Frow serves as the director of the school's plays. They recently wrapped up “Seussical,” a musical based on characters from the books of Dr. Seuss.

English Fest is one of Frow's most notable accomplishments. The program, which she started at the middle school, encourages students to read several books then compete in how knowledgeable they are about the novels against other students.

At the end of the year, the students went to Duquesne University, where several earned awards, Frow said.

“I want my students to take away that words are powerful,” she said. “We need to use them well, whether it's in speaking or writing.”

Other local finalists for the 2014 Teacher of the Year award are Nicola Hipkins of Bethel Park School District in Allegheny County and Jen Klobucar of Yough School District.

Each of the finalists must make a video of themselves teaching and submit it to the state Department of Education.

A winner will be announced next year during an education conference in Harrisburg.

Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6220 or