When the lunch bell rings, excited Secaucus Middle School (SMS) students rush down the hall to the classroom of math teacher Toni-Ann Palmisano. The advisor to the Yearbook Committee and Student Government, Palmisano gladly spends her lunch hours with students of all grade levels and abilities, offering extra math help, planning the next school dance and working on the yearbook. She strives to create a school culture in which acceptance is appreciated and encouraged and believes strongly that extracurricular outlets help children succeed when stress or challenges arise.
In class, Palmisano teaches seventh-graders the fundamental building blocks of algebra and geometry, using many hands-on and collaborative activities. Students slice food to understand cross-sections and use virtual counters to learn about integers. Music and media figure prominently in her curriculum: lessons often include videos from PBS Learning, Scholastic Study Jams or Math Antics, and Palmisano is known to belt out songs about pi and circumference. In the past few years, students have created their own math music videos from scratch, an activity that reinforces mathematical concepts while letting individual personalities shine. Palmisano aims to anticipate and address the question math teachers dread most from students: “When will we ever use this again?” She is credited with helping boost the district’s math assessment scores, which have risen every year since she arrived in the district. Last year Palmisano received a perfect 4.0 Student Growth Percentile Score; all of her students scored 3 or higher on the Grade 7 Mathematics Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment, with the majority scoring 4 or 5 (Meeting or Exceeding Expectations).
Palmisano played a vital role in rewriting the SMS math curriculum when it was aligned to the state standards. She is the teacher designee for the parent-teacher association and sits on the Intervention & Referral Services and Communication & Collaboration committees. Palmisano mentors novice teachers, has led informational sessions for parents about the math PARCC assessments, has presented at National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) regional conferences, and advises the high school Unico-Youth Club, which performs community service in the Secaucus area.
Palmisano earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and math education in 2009 from New Jersey City University and a master’s in educational leadership in 2013 from Kean University.