Svetlana Panameno used to start her work days pretty early — at 6 a.m. — and, one day, one of her colleagues asked her why she was there so early.
“As time passes on, I begin to see my students’ minds develop, and they begin thinking beyond what is in front of them."
— SVETLANA PANAMENO, Bunnell Elementary School Teacher of the Year
“Do you think anyone will say ‘thank you’ to you?” the colleague asked.
“I do not do this for a ‘thank you,’” Panameno had said. “I expect greatness from my students; how can I expect it, if I myself don’t give it?”
Coming in early to prepare for the day was her way of doing her part to ensure that students would be productive, she wrote in her personal essay for the Teacher of the Year award.
Panameno has taught at Bunnell Elementary since 2006, for her entire teaching career in Florida, and has a master’s degree in ESOL instruction and an endorsement to teach gifted and talented classes.
Panameno wants every child to realize they’re capable of anything they want, as long as they work hard for it.
“I take a lot of pride in my students’ successes, and that continues to inspire me on a daily basis,” she wrote. “… I ask my former students, ‘What could I have done to better prepare you for the following grade?’ ‘We are prepared, and thank you for pushing us,’ is what they say. Those responses are what inspires me to continue what I do. I want them to be great!”
Panameno teaches advanced classes at Bunnell Elementary. But her students aren’t always ready.
“My students enter my room with behavior issues, as struggling readers, and students that are several years behind grade level,” she wrote. “Yet, I take them all and make sure they pass third grade with a level 3 or higher on the FSA.”
About 95% of her students achieve stretch growth on their final diagnostic at the end of the year.
Panameno also reaches out to families and offers free private tutoring after school to help them improve in their weak areas.
“This is probably what causes my students to do well,” she wrote. “It is very difficult to address the needs of so many students within a class day.”
Panameno has also been involved in special projects — helping begin the gifted program, leading a third-grade showcase about butterflies, and, most recently, working with a colleague to order Wisconsin Fast Plant seeds, which have no dormancy period and will be used to teach students about the growth cycle.
“Students are asked to take our topics a step further, and that can be scary and uncomfortable,” she wrote. “As time passes on, I begin to see my students’ minds develop, and they begin thinking beyond what is in front of them. That is my proud moment as a teacher.”