High Honors

Scott School teacher wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science teaching

By Tessa Roy
Posted 9/6/16

First grade teacher Barbara Pellegrino sat in the Harold F. Scott Elementary School office on a hot September afternoon; this is the only place in the school that has air conditioning, and she was ready for a moment of relief. I'm going to"

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High Honors

Scott School teacher wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science teaching

Posted

First grade teacher Barbara Pellegrino sat in the Harold F. Scott Elementary School office on a hot September afternoon; this is the only place in the school that has air conditioning, and she was ready for a moment of relief.

“I’m going to take my shoes off,” she said with a laugh, reaching down to remove her black flats.

After 18 years in the Warwick Public Schools system (seven years at Holliman Elementary and 11 at Scott School), the native Rhode Islander and married mother of two deserves these instances of comfort. But this week, she will get an even bigger moment for herself as she heads to Washington, D.C. to accept a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

The award is the highest honor that can be received by K-12 math and science teachers. Teachers who receive the award are those who create top-notch programs at their schools to improve student enjoyment and learning. Awardees are leaders in their schools and communities known for their extensive knowledge of the subject they teach. PAEMST comes with a hefty prize package including a signed certificate from the President of the United States, a paid trip for two to Washington, D.C. for opportunities for recognition and professional development, and $10,000 from the National Science Foundation.

“I’ve heard from other winners that sometimes you get to meet the president. So we’re keeping our fingers crossed!” she said eagerly. “But no matter what, it’s just the opportunity to go and meet other educators from across the country.”

Scott School Principal Virginia Bolano nominated Pellegrino for the award two years ago (Pellegrino explained that “the cycle is behind” for unknown reasons, so she’s just receiving the award now), and rounds of paperwork and applications ensued. Pellegrino wrote a 12-page paper about her work and had one of her lessons videotaped. The state then decided whether to pass her nomination on to the national level.

“I said to my husband, ‘here it goes!’ I sent it out into the world and whatever happens, happens,” she said of the moment she submitted the materials.

Over a year later, after more applications and updating, she found out she had won. The news came as a surprise to her.

“You don’t go through your teaching life saying ‘hey nominate me!’ Nobody is in education to get awards. We’re in it for the students, our colleagues, the schools. I don’t think anyone thinks they’ll go into education so they can get a bunch of awards,” she said. “But it certainly is nice when it does happen!”

However, those who know her seem surprised the win didn’t happen sooner. Pellegrino’s involvement in the school system runs deep. Besides being known for her effective hands-on methods of teaching in the classroom, she is a member of Warwick’s Mathematics Leadership and Mathematics Curriculum Teams, a mentor to student teachers from Rhode Island College, and a leader at the school’s Parent Teacher Association. Principal Bolano and PTA President Mary-Ann McCurry both lauded the effort she coordinated between the PTA and Texas Instruments.

Bolano said that as part of Pellegrino being recognized at the state level, Texas Instruments provided Scott School with free teacher training and the PTA purchased calculators for each classroom. Pellegrino worked with TI to create a faculty presentation and with the PTA to secure funding for the calculators, as well as deciding which calculators were appropriate for each grade level.

“It’s important to get things like [the calculators] for the kids,” says McCurry. “She keeps up with trends and technology, which speaks volumes about her.”

McCurry’s son Matthew, 7, was in Pellegrino’s class last year.

“She’s nice and very smart,” Matthew said, adding that he also liked how his former teacher always helped him with his homework.

One of Pellegrino’s best-known achievements is Scott School Math Night, an annual event started in 2010. Some teachers had found parents were not quite sure how to help their kids with math. Therefore, Pellegrino organized a team of teachers and PTA members to put on Math Night. The event was a night of fun activities and games put on to help students learn and to show parents methods of teaching used in the classroom. About 100 students and their families came each time. The event changes each year as the team learns more about each family’s needs. Pellegrino said it may become more geared towards the entire realm of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEAM) and that the school may hold the event during the day so more students can attend. Getting children as young as Pellegrino teaches to be this enthusiastic about math might seem like a difficult task, but it comes easy to her.

“You have to be excited about math yourself. Which I am,” she said with a laugh. She recalled a time when a student’s simple question, whether zero was odd or even, led to an “aha moment.”

“I just asked ‘well, what do you think it is?’” she said. She waited as the student deliberated with his classmates. They decided that because numbers follow an “odd-even” pattern, zero must be even when the pattern is flipped. However, one student pointed out that when the class made even numbers with their counting cubes, even numbers can be broken in half with two more even numbers on both sides. He then concluded zero was neither odd nor even because “you can’t break it in half” – all by applying Pellegrino’s methods of teaching to his own thinking.

“Listen to all that mathematical thinking from little first grade children!” she said, waving her arms in excitement. “I didn’t do the thinking for them, but I had provided the materials, the discussion, and had set the stage for them to think those mathematical thoughts.”

It is not just inside school, though, that Pellegrino makes a difference in her students’ lives. Joy Bianco’s daughters Bella, 15, Allie, 13, and Madison, 8, all had Pellegrino as their first grade teacher, and have only good things to say about her. While the girls best remember the lessons she taught with pumpkins, Bianco’s fondest memory of Pellegrino is when she came to watch Madison perform in a play at the Prout School – the family was touched by the gesture.

“She really goes the extra mile for students inside and outside of the classroom,” Bianco says. “She’s caring, kind, and really special.”

Even with students, parents, and administrators alike singing her praises, Pellegrino remains humble. This award is just one more way for her to keep educating herself.

“I’ve looked at the whole thing as a learning experience,” she said. “Teachers don’t just teach. We’re always the learners as well. No matter how long a career you have, you’re always trying to learn new things for the benefit of your students.”

EARLY CONGRATULATIONS:

Barbara Pellegrino (left) is honored on the first day of school by Mayor Scott Avedisian, Superintendent Philip Thornton and Director of Elementary Education Lynn Dambruch. (Warwick Beacon photo)

Comments

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richardcorrente

Congratulations Barbara!

Warwick has another award-winning teacher. It's a damn shame the teachers don't have contracts! As Mayor, I will make this a top priority. I understand that the Mayor can't take part in the actual negotiations but the Mayor is responsible to the taxpayers to make sure that there ARE NEGOTIATIONS! If I have to buy them lunch, I will. If I have to call each one of them one hundred times, I will. If I have to lock them in a room until they find common ground, I probably won't. There probably is some law against that, but that is how committed I am to get the two parties to just talk to each other. I can't have a school system that is causing students, teachers and taxpayers to "look elsewhere" for their education.

I just can't.

Mayor Avedisian hasn't attended one School Committee meeting. I haven't missed one. Which kind of a Mayor do you prefer? Please visit www.correntemayorwarwick.com

Thank you. Welcome to Autumn.

Richard Corrente

Endorsed Democrat for Mayor

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
CrickeeRaven

The prior comment by a candidate for mayor shows that he continues to deny the reality of the contract situation in Warwick. As has been explained on several occasions, the teachers union leadership and school administration are far beyond the point of negotiating a contract, and are instead engaged in arbitration and litigation. Nonetheless, this candidate continues to falsely assert that he would somehow work outside the legal framework of collective bargaining.

Please join me at the thousands of voters in Warwick who understand how contracts and laws work, and will reject this candidate in Nov. 8.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
richardcorrente

Sorry CrickeeRaven, but you're wrong again!

You said that "this candidate continues to falsely assert that he would somehow work outside the legal framework" I never said anything like that! I said the two parties should sit and talk. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ILLEGAL ABOUT THAT.

Collective bargaining not only doesn't prohibit the 2 sides from talking to each other, it encourages it CrickeeRaven. Don't ever call my intention to get these two sides together as something that is "outside the legal framework of collective bargaining".

If you do that again I will report it.

You owe me a sincere apology.

Richard Corrente

Endorsed Democrat for Mayor

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
CrickeeRaven

In a prior comment, a candidate for mayor claims "there is nothing illegal" about his stated plan to get the school committee and teachers union to negotiate a new contract, despite the fact that the two parties are currently exercising their legal rights through arbitration and litigation, the existing legal avenues for settling their current contract dispute.

He should also be aware, since it has been explained to him before, that municipal officials are legally prohibited from getting involved in school contract negotiations under nearly a century of law and legal precedent in Rhode Island.

Please join me and the thousands of voters in Warwick who will reject this candidate on Nov. 8.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Scal1024

Rick, I'm wondering if you have estimates for how much your plans will cost?

50% of seniors/veterans car taxes paid. How many are eligible? What would it cost?

What would giving tax rebates to new homeowners cost?

You say you want to "reduce salaries of new hires". The next point on your website says "I want a hiring freeze". Which is it? You cannot have it both ways. Are you going to freeze hiring or reduce new employees salaries?

The reason I ask is because if you cannot tell me what this would cost, how do you know you are going to have the revenue to "cut taxes"? Otherwise it's just an empty rhetoric. There are plenty of other promises you are making i didn't even ask about. I'll start with those basic questions to see if you can answer them without campaign speak.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Biggameatball

Hey Corrente - You are using the Warwick Beacon as if it were your personal Facebook page - enough already!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
CrickeeRaven

Hello again, Scal1024.

It seems pretty clear, in spite of our repeated attempts, that this candidate will simply ignore questions or information that discredit his claims. And as you will no doubt recall, he seems to believe that questioning a user's choice of pseudonym is equal to presenting information that shows his own statements to be false.

This is not to say, of course, that you and I should stop trying to get answers out of this candidate; it seems clear to me that you are one of the thousands of voters in Warwick who believe a candidate for office should exhibit some kind of accountability for what he says, and that attempts to mislead voters through erroneous statements will be called out for what they are.

So, for example, as you point out, this candidate can not offer a dollar figure for his campaign pledge to cut car taxes for seniors and veterans by 50%. Allow me to make an attempt at gathering research that may answer this query, one which I intend to show could have been easily performed by this candidate:

According to the city budget, vehicle taxes are expected to generate about $30 million in revenue [see last page of this link: http://www.warwickri.gov/sites/warwickri/files/uploads/fy17_general_fund_budget_-_proposed.pdf]. Using U.S. Census data from 2010 showing that 17.1% of Warwick residents are 65 or older [see link here: [http://www.census.gov/quickfacts/table/PST045215/4474300], and assuming that another 5 percent of residents are veterans younger than 65 -- the Census reports a figure of 6,696 but does not distinguish age groups -- that amounts to 22.1% of the population that may be eligible.

Please allow me the indulgence of additional calculations, understanding that these are rough estimates: Using the governing.com estimate of 79.4% of Warwick residents owning cars [see link here: http://www.governing.com/gov-data/car-ownership-numbers-of-vehicles-by-city-map.html], that would result in 17.6 percent of the elderly and veteran population being eligible car tax payers. That population, then, currently pays about $5,250,000 of the estimated $30 million in excise taxes, and thus a reduction of 50% would be $2,625,000.

As you so correctly point out, this candidate has offered no plan of any kind to address the revenue shortfall that would result from a nearly $3 million vehicle tax cut. From his absolute refusal to answer your questions, it's valid speculation to think that he simply believes that he can get elected on making promises without offering details.

You've also pointed out the difficulty [to put it lightly] that this candidate has in explaining how this and other imaginary revenue cuts will be funded. He claims the city is on poor fiscal footing, yet wishes to remove substantial amounts of income and offers contradictory ideas [like those about a hiring freeze and salary reductions for new hires that you have so properly pointed out on many occasions] that would ultimately save the city very little.

Thank you for continuing to demand accountability from this candidate, and for joining me and the thousands of voters in Warwick who see through this candidate's false claims.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Scal1024

CrickeeRaven thank you for doing the math that in 2 years Rick couldn't do. You are devoted to getting the truth, even when there is some work involved and I applaud that. Your work shows just how big of a revenue gap there would be if Rick was ever elected. That doesn't include freezing 2 years of permit fees, rebates for new home buyers etc. It's just a blatant lie. Not to mention he says things like cut every department by 5%. Part of that would be Parks and recreation. On one hand Rick you talk about promoting our city and our beaches and parks, yet you are going to cut Parks and Recreation budget by 5%??? That isn't a blatant contradiction in promotion/budget cutting?

I think it's unfair to taxpayers for Rick Corrente to continue to make false promises. Especially to seniors and veterans, some of our most deserving residents. I wouldn't mind the fact he posts so much if there was some actual substance behind it. There just isn't. I along with CrickeeRaven and others have asked questions, Rick Corrente decided to pick and choose what to respond to and it seems he doesn't like to answer any questions. Well whatever you decide to comment on Rick, I will be there to ask these same basic questions (about your "plans") and I'm sure CrickeeRaven will do the same. You have been running for 2 years...where are the specifics??? Why can't you answer any questions about what YOU propose?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016