AAFE winner Kelly Petrello: “Award will change our classroom for the rest of the year”

This year, Garden Hills fifth-grade teacher Kelly Petrello celebrates her 10th year in education at Atlanta Public Schools (APS), and the Atlanta Families’ Award for Excellence in Education (AFAEE) has helped make it a year Petrello won’t forget.  Petrello was one of only 10 APS educators to win the 2013 AFAEE honor, which recognizes outstanding  APS teachers and school leaders for their talent and creativity, passion and commitment to excellence.

AFAEE award recipient Kelly Petrello and Garden Hills principal Tommy Usher
AFAEE award recipient Kelly Petrello and Garden Hills Principal Tommy Usher

Under the guise of preparing for a news interview, Principal Tommy Usher entered Petrello’s class with a photographer early Tuesday morning, while Petrello, undistracted, continued teaching.  Moments later, Board of Education Representative Nancy Meister, accompanied by the Chick-fil-A cow, a crowd of students, district employees and AFAEE representatives, walked in holding an oversized check for $7,500.  After Meister asked her if she knew why they were there, a puzzled Petrello replied, “I’m so confused right now.” Oncer Meister explained to Petrello that AFAEE had selected her as a 2013 award winner, and after the teacher recovered from a spell of hearty laughter, Petrello simply said, “Awesome.”

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said later.  “I can’t wait to tell the kids what this is all about.  This award will change our classroom for the rest of the year.”

The $7,500 monetary award includes $1,500 for professional development, a $2,500 personal stipend and $3,500 to fund her Digital Citizens Online Classroom project.  The project will provide iPads and computers for her class so that students can enhance their classrooms presentations by utilizing audio and video.  Petrello will teach them how to upload their presentations to the internet so they can be used for other classes in the future.

Petrello began her teaching career with Teach for America, and she has worked at Slater, Smith and Garden Hills elementary schools during her 10 years

Representatives from AFAEE and Board of Education member Nancy Meister present Petrello with check that includes funding for professional development, classroom supplies, a classroom project of her choice and a personal stipend
Representatives from AFAEE and Board of Education representative Nancy Meister presented Petrello with a check that includes funding for professional development, classroom supplies, a class project of her choice and a personal stipend

with the district.  Her list of accomplishments at APS is impressive:  2006 Teacher of the Year; leading 100 percent of her students to meet or exceed ELA standards on the CRCT for the last two years; and helping 94 percent of her Garden Hills fifth graders meet or exceed math standards on the 2013 CRCT – up 41 percent from the students’ 2012 scores; recipient of the Fund for Teachers Award and the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund.  Additionally, Petrello spends her summers working as a Faculty Advisor to support new teachers, and helps them become acclimated to the classroom.

In addition to a goodie bag, water bottles for her students and the $7,500 check, Petrello received a framed letter of congratulations from Mayor Kasim Reed and a framed proclamation from the Atlanta City Council.

The AFAEE recognizes and honors outstanding educators in a manner that informs and engages the community.  Since its inception in 2005, AFAEE has recognized outstanding teachers and school leaders for their commitment to excellence, while aiming to create a platform to further award winners’

Petrello said she plans to apply a portion of the monetary award toward her Digital Citizens classroom project.
Petrello said she plans to apply a portion of the monetary award toward her Digital Citizens Online Classroom project.

success in APS retain motivated educators and attract like-minded individuals to the district.

AFAEE will formally recognize all 2013 winners at the November 21 awards ceremony which will take place at the Carter Center.

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