Amy Palatucci ‘08 knows what it’s like to be a kid struggling in school.
“For me, it was a teacher that turned me around.”
Growing up in Pittsburgh, Palatucci never had confidence in school until she entered Brentwood High School. A teacher took her aside and spoke words that changed her life: “You could be doing so much more than you’re doing.”
After that moment, the teacher had her participate in the gifted program, even though she hadn’t initially been recommended for it.
“That motivated me. I take similar actions with some of my kids today. If people think that they are smarter than they are, and others begin to regard them as smart, they rise to the occasion,” Palatucci says.
Today, she is an accomplished special education teacher in the Scottsdale, Arizona area. She received the 2016 Charros Award for Outstanding High School Educator, which is rarely awarded to teachers in special education.
As the department chair for the Scottsdale Unified School district, she manages about 70 students and seven teachers. She’s been in Scottsdale since 2011 and teaches at Chaparral High School.
“I take on a lot for the students. Anything they need,” she says.
She’s been responsible for running numerous programs for students with special needs, including an award-winning Best Buddies Club that pairs traditional learners with those with special needs. She led a diversity camp, called Unitown, and she coached a robotics club, which involved three special education students for the first time this year and also qualified for the world championship in St. Louis.
As chair, Palatucci set up a new structure for her department that improved both student achievement and the school culture over the years.
With such a long list of accomplishments, it’s difficult to believe she was a Carlow undergraduate student majoring in special education just eight years ago. She credits Carlow’s Education Department for getting students into the classroom early and often.
“You were getting into the classroom freshman year and getting involved. The exposure to the teachers and the students early on was really helpful,” Palatucci says.
She adds: “There was a lot of compassion and support from our professors. They modeled for us how to be leaders, beyond just what we can do in the classroom. They encouraged us to get involved.”
Palatucci has a bright future in education. This summer, she is principal of Scottsdale Summer School and is completing a master’s degree program in educational administration and leadership.
“I was motivated to become a special education administrator to try to make a difference on a bigger level. I’d like to eventually get to the district level and try to make a bigger impact,” Palatucci says.
Learn more about Carlow's Education Department in the College of Learning and Innovation.