Catone’s creativity enriching students’ education

Teaching time is at a premium, but that has never been an issue for Angela Catone, known for her creative ways to maximize education opportunities for her students. Just look at her latest creation — the “Math Crash Cart.”

The crash cart allows Catone — the Perry Hill School enrichment specialist — to have every possible manipulative at hand in organized, labeled containers, allowing her to meet the needs of her students in the hour she spends with each classroom.

And it is this kind of creative thinking — as well as her success with instructing her students — that led the school administration, at last month’s Board of Education meeting, to announce Catone as the Innovative Educator Award winner for November.

“I have grown to realize that the first step of education is building relationships, gaining trust, and then allowing students to explore,” said Catone, who has been an educator for 11 years, having taught in fifth and sixth grade prior to becoming the enrichment specialist. “Students are allowed to be creative and truly take back the steering wheel to find out what intrigues them.

“My students give me the motivation to keep learning to provide them with the material they want to learn about to progress their future,” added Catone.

School Superintendent Dr. Chris Clouet said Catone represents the best of what teaching can be.

“She is smart, in tune with her students,” added Clouet,” and has a vision for preparing them to meet the challenges and opportunities of their respective futures.”

"Ms. Catone is an outstanding educator and has really brought the enrichment program to a new level,” said Perry Hill School Principal Lorraine Williams. “She works closely with the curriculum, yet it extends it to really make our students think. Since Ms. Catone became the enrichment specialist, more students are serviced than ever, which is a huge bonus for Perry Hill School."

Catone said her position allows her to help students be persistent in the learning process and explore concepts through inquiry-based activities.

“Each day brings new topics of discussion, and I may plan for an activity, but the students may ask questions and I jump to meet their interests using hands-on tasks. I have my resources all over my room and have developed my ‘Math Crash Cart’ to allow for these changes,” said Catone.

She told the board members that the idea for the “Math Crash Cart” came from watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, in which the character Arizona developed a medical crash cart with all of the items necessary for any complication that would arise in the first hour after childbirth to save lives.

“I thought to myself, I need this crash cart to have every possible manipulative in organized labeled containers to meet the needs of the students in the hour I spent with each classroom,” said Catone. “I have become more efficient and the kids love the STEAM driven and inquiry based approach.”

Catone then showed board members a video, in which those in attendance got a first-hand look at the many projects students have completed in her class. Among the projects are:

  • Map Push Pin Art, which helps students learn about coordinate planes; the four quadrants; understanding points on a grid; pixel art, studying artists such as Eric Daigh, and the last component was the engineering process of making the art work stand independently.

  • Reflection landmarks, reflecting an image over the axis line; transformations; learning facts about important world landmarks; showing students how to use Google Tables to showcase research they have learned.

  • I Am Poem, in which students focused on habits of mind and self-reflection and developing relationships, while learning about cubism artists such as Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian to develop a piece of art from that genre.

  • Foam Dice, in which students use dice to teach about plotting X and Y coordinates; operations involving integers, which turned into order of operations.

The school administration announces the Innovative Educator Award winner each month at the Board of Education meeting. The next board meeting is scheduled for Dec. 19.