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Tinelli brings talents in engineering to classroom

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Bullitt County 2009 High School Teacher of the year

By Mallory Bilger

MOUNT WASHINGTON — Kristy Tinelli excelled at math and science from a young age. So much so, that everyone around her expected her to become a doctor or engineer.

Giving in to those expectations, Tinelli pursued a degree in chemical engineering. She left her Mount Washington home and moved to Virginia where she had a successful seven-year career in chemical engineering.

Until one day she realized that she wanted more than just a career.

Tinelli realized that her engineering job was helping her company be more profitable, but wasn‘t giving enough to the world around her.

That is when she decided to become a teacher.

“My job (as an engineer) was stressful,” she said. “I wanted more time for my family.”

While still living in Virginia, Tinelli attended Old Dominion University and earned her teaching license, which is complimented by her University of Louisville chemical engineering degree.

Deciding to become a teacher has been very rewarding for Tinelli, who was recently named Bullitt County’s High School Teacher of the Year.

Tinelli teaches advanced math at Bullitt East High School. She has been on staff for four years and has never regretted moving back to her hometown to teach at her alma mater.

“It was really pretty strange at first. I don’t think I’d even been in the school since I graduated,” Tinelli said of her first year at BEHS. “At this point I love it and plan on staying in teaching for the rest of my career.”

Tinelli enjoys applying her engineering skills to her lessons. She encourages students to become practical and independent thinkers.

“I do have a really strong, I guess, passion for engineering and it’s kind of my way to try and stay connected with that world,” Tinelli said of her teaching style.

Tinelli said her classes tend to be relaxed and questions are encouraged. She wants students to walk away feeling like they can become doctors, engineers, or even teachers.

And she feels a special responsibility to encourage her female students.

“There’s a lot of girls that are really strong in math but they don’t feel comfortable pursuing that field,” she said.

Tinelli said she uses technology in her lessons whenever possible. She has abandoned her white board to use an ActivBoard, which allows her make calculations and notes with a handheld device. The notes then appear on the screen in front of the class.

“It’s a lot more interactive with the kids. A couple of years ago, I was just using the white board,” she said. “The more technology I use . . . the more I know (my students) aren’t going to be sleeping.”

Tinelli said she expects hard work and respect from her students. In return, she gives that respect back.

BEHS junior Kara Alcorn said she enjoyed her time in Tinelli’s pre-calculus class.

“She explains everything really well. She makes (math) alive and more personable,” Alcorn said.

Colleague Pam Cischke said Tinelli’s commitment to student learning and achievement made her a very deserving recipient of the Teacher of the Year award.

“For example, she started an engineering club this year. Because she gave up a career in engineering to teach, she brings real-world experience and applications to the math she teaches,” she said.

Tinelli’s colleagues agree that one of her most noted achievements at BEHS thus far is her creation of a computer program to help boost Commonwealth Achievement Test scores. The program helps track and monitor student progress in math.

“She has spent countless hours after school working on ways to boost student test scores,” Cischke said.

Tinelli has taught the other teachers how to use the program, which she said helps the students take responsibility for their achievement.

“We’re allowing kids to have more ownership . . . that it’s attainable to get a good score (on the CATS test),” Tinelli said.

Colleague Mike Egan said Tinelli’s dedication sets her apart from other teachers.

“I see that the big difference is the time Kristy is willing to put in. She always seems to be staying up to two hours after school to get something done. This is not just for her class but for other teachers as well,” Egan said.

Tinelli said she was very humbled and felt undeserving of being named Bullitt County Teacher of the Year.

“Honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed to be named teacher of the year. . . I mean, I’ve only been teaching five years. I don’t think that I’m a great teacher or anything.

“I’m just honored to be recognized, but I know that after five years of teaching I have a lot to learn.”

She will now compete against teachers from across the state in hopes of becoming the third Bullitt County teacher to be honored as the best in Kentucky.

Tinelli is married to her husband, Aaron, and they have three kids: Emily, 6, Jack, 4 and Anna, who is almost 1.

The family resides in Mount Washington.