Jannotti named teacher of year


photo by Rachael Dichristofano

Romina Jannotti(left) helped Daniel Sanchez(middle) and Devin Bracci(right) with handling chemicals for their activity series lab.

When Romina Jannotti started teaching, she knew chemistry “like the back of [her] hand,” but she did not have a strong background in education.  Eleven years later, Jannotti is a pro at both, and she has won Teacher of the Year.

Jannotti tries to teach chemistry in a way that is both interactive to students and also easy for students to understand.  Students like junior Devin Bracci benefit from lab activities because they put everything that he learns in class into a physical representation that helps him grasp it.

“The labs we’ve done were fun and exciting because we got to be hands on with our lectures and see firsthand how everything works,” Bracci said.

Jannotti teaches both honors and AP Chem, but her teaching style has changed dramatically since she taught at a vocational school where she simply flipped through PowerPoints and lectured.  She found her students were not achieving what she wanted.

“Maybe my students learned the material but I wanted them to learn how to think,” Jannotti said, “I wanted to teach them in a way that would help them get lucrative careers in science because I want them to be successful.”

Jannotti has cited learning the elements of teaching, such as classroom management, motivating students and dealing with parents, as her biggest obstacles to transferring her knowledge to her students.

“And I’m not the type of person that believes they know it all, so I feel that there is always something to learn from somebody else,” Jannotti said. “I just sit and talk to as many people as possible and I look for what’s working in their classroom and what I could bring into mine.”

One of Jannotti’s major tools is the POGIL, or Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning.  POGIL packets are worksheets that are student-guided rather than teacher-guided, and they utilize a series of analogies to compare chemistry concepts to something students may see in everyday life.  Jannotti believes that POGILs teach her students to think rather than having them simply memorize.  One POGIL that compares electron configuration diagrams to boarding houses with multiple floors to represent the shells of an atom.  The POGIL first has students learn how the rules of the boarding house, and then apply those rules to chemistry.

POGIL fits into Jannotti’s philosophy of turning her subject into something that is manageable for a teenager to understand. Sophomore Alyssa Meyne says that it is Jannotti’s willingness to connect with her students that makes the class so enjoyable.

“She seems to know what we are thinking so she can relate it back to something we already understand,” Meyne said.

One of Jannotti’s biggest influences as a teacher was Trent Daniel, is now the principal of Lake Brantley.  When they taught together here, they focused on making chemistry more of a hands-on subject, the opposite of what they experienced as students.

“I try to make sure that we’re doing a lot of meaningful labs and not just doing a bunch of problems out of the book, and I try to bring different subjects while trying to make the learning as cosmic as possible,” Jannotti said.

Jannotti’s goal is to have a classroom where she can give more one-on-one instruction to the students who need it.  She described it as a classroom where the high achieving students are able to work on their own and continue to accelerate their projects while she is able to individually help students who may need it.

“She understands a student’s point of view and connects on a personal level with many of us,” Bracci said. “Part of the reason I continued on to AP Chem was because of the interest in chemistry she instilled in me.”