At the annual “Excellence in Education” awards banquet to be held February 28, Hillsborough County Public Schools announced the school district’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
Although she did not win, one of this year’s six finalists was Carrie Donatelli, a kindergarten teacher at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in New Tampa.
“Just to be one of six finalists in Hillsborough County, which is one of the largest school districts in the country, is such a huge honor,” Donatelli said. “It’s very humbling.”
Donatelli has been teaching for 16 years, with the last four years being at Turner/Bartels. She says she loves teaching at the school because of its commitment to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and she serves on the school’s technology committee, which is currently working to design “capstone projects” to determine what kids at each grade level should be able to do using technology.
“In kindergarten, it’s things like turning on the computer and logging on to websites,” Donatelli says. “But, by the eighth grade, these kids are doing some amazing things.”
Her supervisor is Turner-Bartels assistant principal Lara Barone.
“(Carrie) does great innovative things, different than what you would expect in a typical classroom,” Barone says. “She wants her kids to be citizens of the world, so her kids have Skyped with people around the world.”
Donatelli also uses technology to strengthen the bond between home and the classroom. For example, she posts pictures of her class to a private Instagram page. “It gives the parents a window into their kids’ class,” she says.
In fact, while it seems schools are increasingly focused on testing, and technology plays an integral part in Donatelli’s classroom, neither test results nor technology are what Donatelli says is her biggest goal.
“The most important thing is that my students know I care about them,” she says. “I’m here for them, whatever they need. My classroom is very structured and has high expectations, but it’s also very loving and caring.”
Clearly, her students feel the love. Barone says Donatelli is often requested as a teacher and Donatelli says she is now teaching younger siblings of previous students, and strives to maintain relationships with those families. In 2015, she was invited to a high school graduation for a girl who was in her very first kindergarten class. “It’s pretty cool to maintain those relationships,” she says.
Barone says that, in addition to Donatelli being a natural leader and someone who can always be counted on at the school level to go above and beyond, she also has shown a commitment to the next generation of educators.
“She is a great mentor to interns, and is able to mold and help shape some of our future teachers,” Barone says. “Her past intern is now a teacher in the classroom right next door to hers.”
Donatelli credits those around her, including Barone and her former-intern-turned-next-door-neighbor, for helping her students succeed in a great educational environment.
“I don’t do this job alone,” says Donatelli. “It’s an amazing school with amazing teachers. We collaborate well and work well together, and we’re all here for the kids.”