CORAOPOLIS — For 15 years, Amy Palo has helped spread her passion for history and English at Cornell High School as a beloved member of the faculty.
Palo has always brought energy and excitement to her position within the Coraopolis school, helping students achieve great marks in the classroom while learning about the finer points of U.S. and world history, civics and and American politics, while also incorporating technology in a relevant and engaging manner for her students.
She has a long, lengthy list of achievements as a teacher, and has helped build meaningful relationships with a number of organizations in the Pittsburgh region, much to the benefit of her students over the years. Now, she can add one more major one to her résumé: Pennsylvania’s History Teacher of the Year.
The longtime teacher was named the state’s History Teacher of the Year on Aug. 2, receiving an award presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the nation’s leading organization dedicated to K-12 American history education.
“It’s a little overwhelming, to be honest,” Palo said to The Times in early August. “It’s been very exciting this past week. Gilder Lehrman is a historical society institute that is super supportive of education and provides a ton of opportunities to teacher and students, as far as resources and professional developments.
“I know that outside of the social studies teaching world maybe not everybody has heard of them, but inside the teaching world, it’s kind of a big deal, so I am just super honored, I am surprised a little bit.”
Palo was aware of her nomination for the state’s award in the spring, and had until June to submit a résumé, a cover letter and a lesson plan to a state panel that advises Gilder Lehrman on the award. Still, it hasn’t quite sunken in for her yet that she’s the state’s History Teacher of the Year out of hundreds of nominations.
Inaugurated in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year Award highlights the crucial importance of history education by honoring exceptional American history teachers from elementary school through high school, according to Gilder Lehrman. The award honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and U.S. Territories.
Palo was nominated by fellow Cornell High School faculty member Miriam Klein, who is the librarian at the Coraopolis school. Klein has worked with Gilder Lehrman in the past, according to Palo.
“It is certainly extremely appreciative that she nominated me,” Palo said. “We work pretty closely together…I think we’re very aligned in our professional goals, too. We both do a lot of work around trying to incorporate primary sources in the classroom.”
Winning the award will go a long way towards Palo being able to make a positive impact in her classroom moving forward at Cornell. Thanks to her achievement, Palo will receive a core archive of American history books and Gilder Lehrman educational materials for her classroom, along with a $1,000 honorarium.
In addition to the classroom resources and the honorarium, Palo will receive recognition at a local ceremony in her honor and becomes one of 53 finalists for the 2022 National History Teacher of the Year Award.
The winner of this year’s National History Teacher of the Year Award will be announced in October. Past presenters of the award include the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, Good Morning America‘s Robin Roberts, First Lady Laura Bush, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
“Knowledgeable and impassioned teachers bring our country’s history to life for students, allowing them to understand engaging with history is about more than a series of facts,” said James G. Basker, president of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. “Teachers are the lifeblood of our students’ education, and these are the best of the best.”