2 Mon Valley educators up for state's Teacher of the Year honor
Carol Aten Frow has spent more than half of her life teaching, but she is looking forward to being a student next week.
“All 12 of us are going to be able to teach each other things about education that will make each of us better teachers,” Aten Frow said.
“I'm looking forward to learning from all of the others.”
Aten Frow will spend much of the week with some of the best teachers in Pennsylvania.
When Gov. Tom Corbett announces Pennsylvania's 2014 Teacher of the Year during the Keystone Awards of Excellence program Monday in Hershey, two Valley teachers will be represented.
Aten Frow, a sixth grade English teacher at Marion Elementary School in the Belle Vernon Area School District, and Jen Klobucar, a fourth grade teacher at Henry W. Good Elementary School in the Yough School District, are among 12 finalists for the award.
Aten Frow, a Charleroi native, lives in Monessen. A 1984 Charleroi Area High graduate, she began teaching in 1988.
After eight years at Monessen Catholic School, she moved to Belle Vernon Area, teaching one year at the high school and 16 at Bellmar Middle School.
Aten Frow moved to Marion Elementary School this year following a school building consolidation.
While at Bellmar, Aten Frow was nominated by Principal John Grice.
“I was very honored and very surprised … And then the work began,” Aten Frow said.
After being nominated, candidates obtained letters of recommendation, completed multiple essays and presented resumes.
“There's a lot of evaluating,” Aten Frow said. “It's not a popularity contest.”
From nominees statewide, the list was whittled down to 34 semi-finalists.
Each receives a month to respond to a number of essay prompts, covering subjects ranging from teaching philosophy to community service.
The 12 finalists were announced in April.
Each finalist submitted an unedited videotape of him or her teaching a class. They submitted tapes in which they spoke about such subjects as input for education majors on what it means to be a teacher and explanations about lesson plans featured in their respective videotapes.
The finalists become members of the National State Teacher of the Year Association, becoming mentors for other educators.
Aten Frow said she likes to use humor and anecdotes to inspire her students.
“I always have a smile on my face whether I am happy or not,” Aten Frow said. “The kids feel welcome and that opens the door to education.”
Asked what makes her unique, Aten Frow said, “I don't know that I am. I think our state is full of incredible educators. I think I was lucky to be identified as one. I'm thrilled to represent our district, and hope I can continue to represent it well. I'm very humbled to be included in this and to be at this stage.”
Klobucar said she was surprised and honored to learn of her nomination.
“It's been a whirlwind of excitement,” Klobucar said.
Klobucar was nominated by elementary Principal Amy Larcinese and Superintendent Dr. Janet Sardon.
In an accompanying letter of nomination, Melissa Cosharek, mother of student Logan Cosharek, said Klobucar stepped forward when a tornado struck the area in 2010.
“When she walked up to our driveway, while we were all cleaning up, my son felt so very honored that his teacher would come to see how he and our family was doing,” Cosharek wrote.
“It means a lot to children when they are made to feel special. Mrs. Klobucar has a real knack for making all of her students feel special. I felt equally as special when I had any dealings with her.”
Klobucar is in her 17th year as an elementary teacher at Yough.
Klobucar said she enjoys collaborating with her peers on projects to “make it fun for kids to learn.”
One such project was the creation of a mathematics lab at the elementary school, done in collaboration with teachers Brandon DePhillips and Tricia Fretts.
The lab was geared toward inspiring students.
“We wanted to make it more comfortable for the students so they could find success,” Klobucar said.
The lab had humble beginnings, just a stark room containing a few computers.
“Every time I walked past it, I thought there has to be something we can do for it,” Klobucar said.
Eventually the teachers brought the room to life, painting its walls various colors and adding a dry erase table, creating a simulated store, a fraction station and a Wii and SMART Board for video-related math games.
“It takes a hands-on approach,” Klobucar said.
So does she.
“I do believe in keeping children engaged as long possible, because that breaks down the walls of learning,” Klobucar said.
“When you make something come alive for children and apply what they learned, it helps them find success.”
Sardon will be among the Yough educators attending the conference in Hershey, where the winner will be announced.
“We are extremely proud of her,” Sardon said. “She is a phenomenal teacher. She embodies what a teacher is. It is a huge honor from all of the teachers across the state to have one of the nominees from our district.”
Klobucar said she is looking forward to meeting the other finalists, sharing and learning their strategies for the classroom.
A Jeanette native, Klobucar lives in Penn Township.
“The whole process has been very humbling,” Klobucar said. “I'm excited to represent my school district. It's nice to see experienced educators recognized for the hard work they do every day. I see it every day with the teachers and educators I work with.”
Aten Frow said it is “wonderful” that two Valley teachers are among the 12 finalists.
“When I hear about schools in our state, I hear about what they're doing in city schools,” Aten Frow said. “That there are two of us local is a nice comment on how much we value education and want our students to be successful.”
“That says that the education we're providing in western Pennsylvania is a good education,” Sardon said. “I wish them luck, and we're proud of Belle Vernon for having a teacher of the year finalist, too.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.