Connections: Linking Talented Educators
Connections: Linking Talented Educators

Spotlight: Andrea Trio (WV '22)

January 30, 2023

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Principal Andrea Trio (WV ’22) has built strong relationships with community partners who support students and families with food, school supplies, their time and more: “They are vital members of our school family.” She received West Virginia’s 2022-23 Milken Educator Award at Wheeling’s Madison Elementary on November 3, 2022.

Milken Family Foundation: How does your background as a music educator inform your work as an administrator?

Andrea Trio (WV ’22): I have always valued the ways that music can reach children holistically. Music can infuse not only academic content, but social and emotional aspects as well. Music is a language that touches us emotionally when words cannot.

When I taught music in kindergarten through fifth grade, I always used cross-curricular approaches which helped me learn about the curriculum for each grade. Now, I use my music experience to help students when they are in their most emotional states. I often sing to them to soothe them, teach them body percussion techniques and rhythmic chants to strengthen their mindset, and help them use their voices in a way that goes beyond what they thought possible.

I’m grateful for my time spent in music education and believe that because of that, I’m a stronger administrator who can do what I strive to do day in and out — the best for my students, because they deserve that.

MFF: How did you end up in education?

Andrea: For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. As a young girl, you would often find me playing “school” with my friends and cousins (many of them also went into education!). I have always had a passion of working with children, whether it was babysitting or helping with camps and church activities. I longed to work with children. It was something that gave me great enjoyment and I knew very early on that I wanted to make this passion of working with children a lifelong commitment.

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MFF: How did your first year of teaching go?

Andrea: Although I felt prepared with the content I was supposed to be teaching (music), I was quite overwhelmed. I was split between two elementary schools, and I struggled to find my groove. I had amazing colleagues, and I was lucky to gain insight from veteran teachers who could pass along great words of wisdom and advice.

MFF: What do you like about working with elementary students?

Andrea: I’ve had the opportunity to work at each programmatic level, but elementary students are by far my favorite! I find it most rewarding that I get to be part of their initial foundation in education. I love to see them develop a love of learning, build relationships, and grow not only academically but socially and emotionally. They have amazing imaginations. They make me laugh, they make me feel good even on my hardest days, they give the best hugs, and they light up a room during their “aha!” moments.

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MFF: We understand you take a non-traditional, non-exclusionary approach to discipline. Can you tell us about that?

Andrea: Students simply learn when they come to school. Students are given the opportunity to learn by developing academic skills, and they also deserve the opportunity to learn socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. To begin, all children need to come to school feeling safe and loved. They need to believe that they are given chances to make mistakes, but to also know they have the resources to make their tomorrows better than their todays.

We would never look at a kindergarten student and demand that they automatically read. We teach them. The same goes for my approach to discipline. I believe in a three-tiered approach to help students become most successful. Based on many infractions, I believe that students need the chance to be taught. The interventions are key. Having a solid universal approach of expectations will give students an awareness of what I expect. These expectations become routine, and they are modeled each day. Positive affirmations also play an integral role in their learning, both academically and behaviorally.

I want my students to believe in who they are, always try their best, know they deserve all good things, and find ways that they can feel like they are on top of the world. I believe that solid interventions need to take place when students misbehave — and suspension is not always the answer to helping students learn how to become better. As educators, we must find resources not only in curriculum but also as human resources to teach our children. Relationships are key, interventions are vital, and involving students and teaching them new skills will ultimately replace their behaviors. May we remember that we need to use discipline to teach and not to punish.

MFF: Who are your role models?

Andrea: I have had quite an amazing group of educators surround me during my career. I’ve looked up to former teachers, include Mr. Tom Rataiczak, Mrs. Mary Catherine Allodi, Mrs. Tonie Sivert, and Dr. Kathleen Shannon. All these former teachers taught me how to chase my passions, my growths, and my dreams because they knew that they’d become my reality. They encouraged me along the way and were major resources helping me reach such great potential.

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MFF: You have built incredibly strong relationships with community partners. Why is this web of support important for Madison’s students?

Andrea: We’ve all heard the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Madison has been blessed and we’ve worked very hard to develop strong relationships with people in our community. These people work alongside us to do what is best for children. They help provide additional resources students need beyond their academic education.

These community partners have given time, talents, and love to each of our students. They provide food as a blessing in a backpack for students to be nourished during their weekends away from school. They volunteer time to come into our school and help our students in their classrooms. Some work one-on-one with students in our mentoring program. They help our students and their families by providing school supplies, clothes, books, and even ways to participate in extracurricular activities. They’ve partnered with us to secure funds to build a playground and have even made financial contributions to help families during the holiday seasons. Our community partners are vital members of our school family and our students are blessed beyond measure to reap the amazing benefits.

MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?

Andrea: To say that I was surprised when I found out that I had received the Milken Educator Award would be an understatement! I was simply astonished. It is now quite humorous knowing that I “planned my own surprise!”

My superintendent had reached out to me about a month earlier, asking me to help plan an assembly to promote the Grow Your Own initiative in the state of West Virginia. Nothing could have prepared me for the true reason of the assembly! There were many distinguished guests in attendance, and about halfway through the assembly, a lady who I thought was from the state department of education turned out to be the vice president of the Milken Educator Awards.

As the assembly continued, I felt so proud as I began to scan the audience, specifically the perimeter, as my teachers were sitting all around. I began wondering, “Who will it be? There are so many teachers on my staff so deserving!” I then began looking around for their family members thinking, “I wonder why I didn’t know about this…this is so exciting…surely someone’s family is here to see this!” And then it was time. The name was announced — and it was me. I can still hear the words, “the Milken Educator Award goes to…your principal, Andrea Trio!” I was almost numb, just simply in awe, and then a feeling of complete joy, a feeling I’ll simply never forget. I’m humbled, honored, and will certainly be forever grateful.

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MFF: How did students respond to your Milken Award?

Andrea: My students flooded the cafeteria with their applause that day, and some even shared tears of joy with me. The sounds of their little voices, their hugs, and the look of pride on their faces will stay with me forever. They still talk about that special day months later and the emotions come flooding back!

MFF: Any plans for the $25,000?

Andrea: I don’t have any definite plans as of right now, but I do know that I will be investing it into my children’s future.

MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself, and for your students?

Andrea: To me, success is the greatness of not what you have, but what you have to give. As I always tell my children at home and at school: “Do good, and good will find its way back to you.” I strive to teach my students that success is often accompanied by the feeling of satisfaction, that they always need to try their best, believe in who they are, and whatever comes their way, they need to always find a way to persevere because they deserve all good things.

MFF: What do you hope students remember from their time with you?

Andrea: It is my hope that my students always remember how much they were loved. I strive to develop and build relationships with my students. Each one of them deserves a champion. I hope they always know that I’ll be cheering them on along the way not only in the present moments, but long after they’ve gone.

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  • Such a beautiful example of a teacher every child would love to have and every good parent love even more! We are so very proud and grateful to have you representing Madison and every school in West Virginia. God bless you as you continue to mold productive students and excellent teachers. Thank you!!

    Posted by Doris Cameron, 31/01/2023 9:14am (2 months ago)

  • Congratulations ❤

    Posted by Karen Roberts, 30/01/2023 3:03pm (2 months ago)

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