Making the Grade: Julianne Agnone, '21, Awarded Rookie Teacher of the Year by Lake Local Schools

Kent State Stark alumna named to the Stark County Education All-Star Team.

Julianne Agnone, ’21, is doing what she loves — teaching. But these days, it’s not only her students making the grade.

Agnone, who teaches math to sixth graders at Lake Elementary, was recently named Lake Local’s Rookie Teacher of the Year and joins newcomer teachers from Stark County’s 17 public school districts as part of the Stark County Educational Service Center’s Education All-Star Team.

This quick study got her start at Kent State University at Stark, where she majored in middle childhood education. Here are 10 questions with Julianne Agnone.


A photo of Julianne Agnone working with a student

1. Why did you choose Kent State?

“In my senior year of high school, I took some classes on the Stark Campus. During this time, I got to see and experience the campus’ environment. The smaller class sizes allowed me to build relationships with professors and learn more about the middle childhood program. I had a few older education majors in my classes, and they told me about all of their great experiences and that you get to spend tons of hours learning and teaching in middle school classrooms. I am a hands-on learner, so this information alone was huge.”

2. Was there a transformative moment where you thought, “This is where I’m meant to be” while pursuing your degree?

“My first class was Education in a Democratic Society with Dr. (Matthew) Hollstein. In this class, we talked a lot about how important it is to know the whole student and how to make students feel seen. We did not read a bunch of books or take any tests but instead focused purely on relationships and classroom culture. The moment Dr. Hollstein said, ‘This classroom is not my classroom. This classroom is OUR classroom’ is the moment I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. He said this to make sure we knew we had a voice in his class and felt comfortable having conversations. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the environment he set in his classroom and the compassion he showed for each one of us was the curriculum he was trying to teach us all along. We didn’t need to read it in a textbook because he demonstrated it in every single class.”

3. Was there a moment where you thought, “This isn’t where I’m meant to be,” while pursuing your degree or during your time at Kent?

“In my first semester of college, I failed a calculus test. I was so discouraged and could not get over the fact that I was in school to be a math teacher, but FAILED a math test. I met with my professor, who could not have been more supportive. She walked me through everything and helped me believe in the importance of failure… I learned how to ask for help and how to trust my professors. This moment was such a learning experience for me, and it is a memory I tell my own students each year. I need my students to know that it’s OK to fail, as long as they don’t give up.”

4. What is your favorite memory from Kent State Stark? 

“My favorite memory has to be any moment in the education program. I was surrounded with the best people and made some really great friends who I still collaborate with today. I cannot speak highly enough of this program, and I fully believe it is the reason behind my current success.”

5. What would you consider your most outstanding achievement at Kent State Stark — or in general? 

“I should answer this question by saying I was selected as Education Major of the Year in my senior year. I am blessed to have been given the recognition, but it is not my most outstanding achievement. My most outstanding achievement was in the education program when I wrote a paper for Dr. (Lori) Wilfong and she told me, “I wish you could stand up and read this in front of Congress.” I am not sure if she wrote this on other papers, but considering how great of a writer she is, it was quite the compliment. Dr. Wilfong is one of those professors who is so good at what they do and inspires you without even trying.”

A photo of Julianne Agnone with her students sitting behind her on stairs

6. Who or what has had the most impressive influence on your life? 

“The people who have the most influence on my life are definitely my siblings. One of the best parts about having two brothers and sisters is that I am never alone. In any situation, I can turn to at least one of them and they will know exactly what to do. My brothers are both extremely hard working, and they motivate me to keep going when things get tough. My sisters are two of the most caring and compassionate people I know. Their kindness is contagious, and it encourages me to spread love everywhere I go. I am blessed with amazing parents who gave me my built-in best friends.”

7. Your supervisor told us about how you do cross-curriculum activities in your math curriculum. What exactly does this mean? 

“While I am a math teacher, I am constantly looking for ways to incorporate skills my students might learn or use outside of math class. I try to learn what my students like and bring that to the classroom. Something a lot of my students love is coding, robots, and technology. Most recently, I created a math lesson where students had to code robots using the answers to their math problems! If they got the math problem wrong, the robot would not be coded accurately and students had to work together to find their mistake, correct it, and try again.”

8. Have you used this style of teaching before? Was there a trial-and-error period when deciding on a teaching method?

“Being a new teacher, every single thing I do in the classroom is trial and error. I have the most supportive administrators, so a failed lesson is not necessarily a bad lesson. My principal, Mr. (Joey) Brightbill, is always the first to give constructive feedback on how I can make things better, rather than telling me everything I did wrong. Because of this support, I am able to experiment a little with my teaching style and find out what works the best, and what I will never do again.”

9. Do you have any advice for current students in your field or in general?

“The best advice I can give to current and future education majors is to be passionate. Bring positive energy to everything you do and it will be a lot more fun. In today’s crazy world, you hear a lot of negative things about teachers and education. You have to understand that people will be negative, and you will not always find yourself in a positive environment — but you can create one. If you are passionate about what you do, you will be less likely to fall into the cycle of negativity and bring the light to those who need it most.” 

10. What is next for you?

“I ask myself this question a lot. I am not entirely sure, but I know whatever I do next, I’ll be just as passionate about it!”

POSTED: Wednesday, April 26, 2023 04:30 PM
Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2024 09:49 AM
Christian Williams for Kent State University at Stark