Heather Palmer, the librarian at Dogwood Elementary School, was named one of the 2017 Outstanding Teachers of the Year by Rotary Club of Knoxville.
Palmer received a $500 check and a $250 gift certificate to A&W Office Supply.
In her introduction of Palmer, Dogwood principal Lana Lowe called her a visionary. Five years ago, Palmer applied for and got a grant to start a Robotics team and hold after-school STEM activities. “She has collaborated with our local library for summer reading and redesigned our library spaces,” said Lowe. “But most of all, she has opened the students up to learning.”
Palmer has some experience with Rotary. She wore a jacket covered with pins and patches from around the world that she had collected as an International Rotary Exchange student. Growing up in Crown Point, Indiana, Palmer spent a year in Katanning, Australia, where she lived on a farm, sheared sheep and nurtured kangaroo babies.
“This experience changed my life,” said Palmer, who graduated with an English degree from Purdue and got her master’s in information science at the University of Tennessee.
Of education today, Palmer said, “Our students are being prepared for jobs that do not exist yet. I’m so glad to work at a school that embraces change and fosters the entire student. When I asked to set up independent problem-solving stations in the library, Ms. Lowe said, ‘Go for it.’”
Palmer said one of her proudest moments was when one of her robotics team members was asked by a panel judge, “What have you learned from this experience?”
“She stood up tall, and she said, ‘I’ve learned that I can do more than run a cash register. I learned that it’s OK to make mistakes, it’s OK to fail. I just try again.’”
Also receiving Teacher of the Year honors was Brooke Bianchi-Pennington, an English teacher at Hardin Valley Academy.