Luisa Palomo

Teacher of the Year - Nebraska


Teach so that your students know that they are loved.

As a young practicum student, I vividly remember entering classrooms and being told to be cautious of being too close to students. Of ways to avoid hugging a student without seeming obvious. Of feeling as though an invisible wall existed between students and teachers. And then I found a school that was different – a school where a sense of belonging and family emanated from staff and student alike. I found a school where, still as a practicum student, the principal urged me to ‘let the kids know that you love them—everything else will follow.’ Years later, this is the first piece of advice that I consciously instil in any pre-service teacher to enter my room. I may worry about a student’s academic or social progress, but I will never question if children knew that they were loved in my classroom.


With business and community support in our schools, children and their families can be most successful.

Many have heard the idea that ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ I am fortunate in my current position to see this philosophy put into action each day. When a school has worked hard to earn the trust and respect of its students and families, it makes the most sense to have the services families need available at the school. From health care to financial planning, from adult literacy classes to extended learning hours for children, schools that offer a variety of services are able to best meet student needs. The services and models used can vary depending on each school’s need, but the idea of supporting the whole child should not. Children succeed when they understand that support systems are in place along their journey. In addition to student and family benefits, business and community partners are able to see firsthand the many positive aspects of public education.


Find the place where you can be most effective, dig your heels in and allow yourself to grow.

As I have had the opportunity to talk with both pre-service and current teachers, I often tell them to be sure to find their ‘best fit.’ The same way that we teach children to put themselves in situations that will help them to be the best they can be, I ask teachers to follow suit. Instead of finding ‘a job,’ I encourage teachers to spend time in a variety of schools, at a variety of age levels, to find the type of school that best aligns with their philosophy of education. Teachers enter the profession fully aware of the limitations of the job—low pay, long hours, emotionally draining days. I tell teachers that with these realities, it is vital that they find a school where, after a long day, they are still thrilled and honored to be a teacher. From here, teachers can grow into truly amazing educators.


Use your role to be a voice for the voiceless.

There are so many responsibilities that teachers have, but above learning content or methods, I believe the most important responsibility that teachers have is to be a voice for the voiceless. This advocacy can take the form of securing basic needs for students, but can also include sharing our knowledge of what children need with others—community and business groups, pre-service teachers and policy makers. I feel a strong responsibility to share my insight with those who can help improve the lives of my students.


Live the philosophy of being the change you’d like to see in the world.

Ghandi is famous for his quote about ‘being the change that you wish to see in the world.’ As a teacher, I model what I would like my students to do—how they should treat others and how to develop an inherent love of learning. I know that I can apply this to teachers as well. It is hard to convince others to leave their comfort zone to try something new, or to shift their way of thinking. By modeling the change I would like to see in the world, I can help change how teachers view ourselves. Through modeling the change I would like to see in the teaching world, I can also help to change the negative perspective of public education that the media often portrays. By simply doing what I love, and sharing that with others, I can change the world!

The views expressed on this site are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pearson Foundation.


Luisa Palomo teaches kindergarten at Liberty Elementary School in Omaha. Palomo’s excellence in teaching has earned the respect of her colleagues and her students’ families as well as the 2012 Nebraska Teacher of the Year award.

Palomo is “the epitome of the ideal teacher,” according to Donna Dobson, director of elementary education for Omaha Public Schools. “Ms. Palomo truly loves her students, cares about their families and the learning is active, engaging and with joy. There is true joy in her classroom, and I think that is what must be seen to be understood. Ms. Palomo teaches in a high poverty school with a very high percentage of students who are learning English as their second language. Every single child feels the care from Ms. Palomo, and they become a very close group of students.” Dobson also noted that the families of her students’ include her in their lives, seek her advice and invite her to family events.

Palomo enjoys working with the Omaha Children’s Museum as a liaison among her school as well as other schools interested in partnering with the museum. She has participated with community organizations working on revitalizing the area where Liberty Elementary School is located.

Palomo received a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education from Creighton University and a Master’s Degree in Educational Administration from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She holds a teaching endorsement from Concordia University in English as a second language. In 2010, she received the Alice Buffett Award for Excellence in Teaching.