Cornell High School teacher Amy Palo named Pennsylvania History Teacher of the Year by Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.
Cornell instructor named PA history teacher of the year
By Elizabeth Perry
Amy Palo, a teacher at Cornell High School in Coraopolis, has been named the 2022 Pennsylvania History Teacher of the Year.
The award is presented annually by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, an organization dedicated to K-12 American history education.
“I am consistently comforted by history, by understanding that there is a constant push and pull and that we continue to make it out to the other side,” Palo said.
Cornell Librarian Mariam Klein, who has been with the district for her entire 21-year career, nominated Palo. She is the only librarian for students K through 12. Both Klein and Palo participated in continuing education courses provided by Gilder Lehrman, and the organization prompted her via email to suggest a candidate for History Teacher of the Year.
Klein said this was not the first time she’d nominated Palo, who has a “passion for turning kids into historians.”
“I think that she really tries to get kids actively engaged in citizenship, thinking about what they look like as members of the community,” Klein said.
Palo encourages her students to keep up with current events and to pursue history projects that are of personal interest to them beyond the assigned curriculum.
Recently, she helped students to create a searchable website of a collection of circa-1940s newspapers. They titled the website the Pittsburgh Papers Project. Students spoke to a professional architectural archivist and learned about all the jobs associated with history that they’d never known about before, Palo said. They also became educated about copyright and fair use laws, as the papers were still technically owned by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Their database could only be shared with other educators, not the public at large.
Palo, who has been with the district since 2007, said she has a “frenetic interest in history” and has continued her own education to become a better teacher.
In 2018, Palo was named a James Madison Memorial Foundation Fellow.
The organization chooses one teacher per state per year and funds up to $24,000 of each Fellow’s course of study toward a master’s degree. Palo earned a master's in political science from the University of Illinois Springfield’s online program thanks to the fellowship.
She attended the digital George Washington Teacher Institute in 2021 to learn more about the first president of the United States and has worked with the World Affairs Council in Pittsburgh for 12 years.
Klein said Palo’s passion is indicative of the teachers at their school. Palo echoed that sentiment herself.
“I’m serious when I say I see what other history teachers are doing and I feel like I haven’t done enough,” Palo said.
What most concerns Palo about the educational landscape right now is an “admirable attempt to fund STEM.” Social Studies has been pushed out of the curriculum, she said.
“I think history and social studies are essential for a free and fair democracy,” Palo said.
Palo describes herself as a petticoat despot on her Twitter account, an incredibly specific history joke which references correspondence between founding father John Adams and his wife Abigail.
Abigail demanded her husband include women in the foundation of democracy, but John said he didn’t want to yield any more personal power to the “petticoat despots.”
When asked which Adams she sides with, Palo said, “definitely Abigail.”
With her award, Palo received $1,000, history books, Gilder Lehrman educational materials and recognition at a local ceremony in her honor. Palo is one of 53 finalists for the 2022 National History Teacher of the Year Award.
Created in 2004, the History Teacher of the Year honors one K-12 teacher from each state, the District of Columbia, Department of Defense schools and U.S. Territories.
The winner of this year’s National History Teacher of the Year Award will be announced in October 2022.