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FULLERTON : Instructor Launches Innovative Teaching

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Patricia Puleo, new director of instructional services for the Fullerton School District, has introduced several creative teaching methods that spark children’s interest in science, math and other subjects.

To upgrade the curriculum, she worked with district teachers this summer to train them in a new method of teaching science. As a result, some teachers are using science “kits” instead of textbooks, Puleo said. The kits contain laboratory experiments and videos to stimulate student interest in science.

A unit on electricity, for example, has children building a circuit board.

“Most science instruction has really been reading instruction,” Puleo said, adding that under this program children will begin in kindergarten to do hands-on science work.

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Puleo was picked in July from four applicants for her position, and began working in August. “She’s really on the cutting edge of instruction,” said Ron Cooper, deputy superintendent.

Puleo earned her reputation during seven years as principal of Golden Hill Elementary School. There, she introduced a teaching method called “thematic instruction,” which tries to increase young children’s interest in learning.

The idea is to spark a child’s interest in a specific theme, like animals, travel or world culture. That theme is used for the whole year to unify lessons in literature, science, health, math, physical education and other subjects.

More than 200 district teachers have been taught thematic instruction in summer workshops over the past two years, Puleo said. As director of instructional services, Puleo said she hopes to bring creative teaching methods to all the district’s schools.

Puleo now oversees teaching, curriculum and testing at the 14 elementary and three junior high schools in the district, which serves about 11,100 children.

Supt. Duncan Johnson said Puleo “has a good sense about what really does work.” He also noted that Puleo has been nationally recognized for her work with the student teaching program at Cal State Fullerton.

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Since each school in the district chooses its own teaching programs, Puleo said her job will be to spread innovative ideas throughout the district.

Often that calls for grants, and Puleo said her staff will help schools apply.

Another of her projects is to help develop standardized tests that will not simply require children to fill in circles with a pencil. “We’re trying to find a test that will best measure what we’re teaching,” Puleo said.

“The kids are encouraged to try different approaches,” Puleo said, and the tests should reflect that.

Puleo started working for the district as a music teacher in 1970. She was principal of Golden Hill for seven years. She said parents, teachers or students may call her at (714) 447-7460.

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