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ALAN TURNER — Paola recognized for her love of people, geography

ALAN TURNER

ALAN TURNER

Carol Paola is one of those people who radiate enthusiasm, and it doesn’t take long to figure out that she truly loves teaching.  She must, since she’s entering her 49th year in the teaching profession.

This past week, in an event hosted by the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, Carol was the recipient of the Jess McKee Award, which emphasizes the quality and character of the honoree’s contributions to geographic education in Mississippi.

Growing up in Bay St. Louis, Carol told me rather sheepishly that “I really didn’t enjoy learning about geography.”  Until, that is, she suddenly came to understand that the study of geography is about much more than just learning about countries and oceans and capitals.

“The really wonderful part of the study is the people,” she said.  “Kids really take to geography when they come to see the different cultures and traditions and beliefs held by people in other nations and regions.  I think it’s really important for our kids to develop an empathy for other people all over the world, and to remember that we’re all part of the same big group called humanity.”

I asked her what her plans are for the future.

“I expect to keep doing what I’m doing until they throw me out,” she said with a smile.  “When you love what you do, why would you leave that behind?”

Present at the event were a number of her current students, who were very obviously big fans of their teacher, as well as some older folks who greeted the lady they described as “my best teacher ever.”

Does Carol travel?

“Well, not so much,” she said.  “Although, I’m planning a trip to Europe this summer.  Mostly, my travel has been around the United States.”

We asked her how she inspires her students and gets them excited about learning, something that we need so much in Mississippi.

“For me, it’s helping the kids develop a strong sense of curiosity.  If you throw out an interesting teaser here and there, suddenly they are interested in learning more, and it just seems to take off from there.”

On the whole, she believes that Mississippi education is probably better than many give it credit for.

“I know so many teachers who give their all to the profession, and the kids they teach,” she said.  “For me, it’s all about doing the best we can with the resources we have.”

Asked what she does for fun, she told us her favorite activity is “sitting in the porch swing and reading.”

We’ll bet that some of her reading is about foreign lands and exotic cultures.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at alan.turner@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1021.

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