Tribute to Teachers: Katie O’Fallon of New River Middle School ‘immerses’ students in marine science and life experiences

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Every year, Local 10′s Tribute to Teachers campaign recognizes the best educators in South Florida, with only five honorees selected from hundreds of nominations.

Katie O’ Fallon, a Marine Science Magnet Coordinator at New River Middle School in Fort Lauderdale, is turning education into opportunities for exploration.

As O’ Fallon teaches her students to tie a nautical knot, she’s actually tying together classroom instruction and life experiences.

A skilled sailor and ardent environmentalist, O’ Fallon’s influence is seen everywhere, from the walls to the ceiling of the school. She has students designing underwater robots and has mobilized the entire 1,500 plus student body to repurpose marine plastics.

“Part of being a student here at New River is that the marine science is all around us. You see murals. You see activities happening,” said O’Fallon, Tribute to Teachers honoree.

O’Fallon believes the best lessons are learned where there are no walls.

“The field experiences is a very important part of our curriculum here at New River. We go on kayaking fieldtrips, we go on canoeing fieldtrips,” said O’Fallon.

Her way of presenting her lessons resonates with many of her students,.

“I actually do struggle with books, but when I actually get to go out and look at stuff, it just helps me so much more,” said Hanya Campbell, a student.

“I get excited to come into her third period class every day, because I like to learn about the marine environments,” Austin Passino, a student.

O’Fallon is among a select group of South Florida educators receiving the recognition from the Tribute to Teachers campaign.

The recognition also comes with a $1,000 gift card from Publix Super Markets.

“I am blessed that I get to work with my amazing students and my amazing teachers, because without them I would not be able to do this,” said O’Fallon.

The beloved educator is also working on building a living shoreline in the back of the school. She also contributed to a marine science curriculum that will be rolled out across South Florida schools.

Three other teachers selected this year will be announced during the 5 p.m. Local 10 newscasts.

About the Author:

Mayte Padron Cordones is an Emmy-award winning journalist and the director of WPLG's Community Relations Department, overseeing the station's outreach initiatives to benefit and strengthen the South Florida community.