Dr. Patterson's Leadership Shared in Local News

Dr. Patterson's Leadership Shared in Local News
Posted on 09/19/2016
Patterson(Hickory Daily Record--Front page story on 9.19.16) written by KJ Hiramoto)

HPS Assistant Superintendent relies on family values and love of learning to empower students

Organized and professional are words used by both Hickory Public Schools (HPS) Superintendent Robbie Adell and Public Information Officer Beverly Snowden to describe Assistant Superintendent Denise Patterson.

Snowden used Patterson’s spotless office setup as a visual example by pointing out how neatly organized Patterson’s desk, bookshelf and teaching accolades were displayed throughout her office.

“I mean look how nice and pristine it looks,” Snowden said playfully. “If you go to some of the (HPS) board meetings, you’ll see that is exactly how she runs it: very professional and organized.”

When Adell took reigns as superintendent in September 2015 – about three years after Patterson took over as an assistant superintendent – his first impression of Patterson was her experience and professionalism.

“When I first came in, I noticed she had a really good background with all of the districts she’s worked at and the Principals of the Year awards she had won,” Adell said of Patterson’s 22-plus years in teaching and administrative roles. “She really knows her curriculum.”

While Snowden and Adell both had overwhelmingly positive things to say about their colleague, Patterson likes to describe herself as an “educator.”

“I was always the one with the love for school,” Patterson said. “It was one of those things where it felt like I was born to do because I didn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Patterson’s fondest childhood memories include frequently volunteering to be the teacher’s helper as a four-year-old during her preschool days, and then being excited when her maternal grandparents bought her a complete set of World Book encyclopedias from a door-to-door salesman.

“Oh, I loved reading those when I was little,” Patterson said with a smile. “Encyclopedias were a big deal to me … I was an old soul from a young age.”

Despite growing up as a self-proclaimed old soul, Patterson stayed committed to her other self-proclaimed identity as the educator throughout her academic career and beyond.

In the undergraduate level, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and an Educator Certification from University of North Carolina Greensboro.

She then enrolled at Charlotte to earn her master’s degree in Elementary Education, and she also studied at Gardner-Webb University to earn her add-on licensure for School Administration. Patterson then went on to earn her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at Charlotte.

On a professional level, Patterson taught in the Lincoln County Schools from 1994 to 2008, where she won the district’s Principal of the Year in 2008 for Norris Childers Elementary. She then became an assistant superintendent and ultimately the associate superintendent of Union County Public Schools from 2008 to 2012, before taking her current position with HPS.

Snowden calls Patterson’s career path “an inspiration” to HPS students and staff because Patterson stayed committed throughout her journey to ultimately becoming the school district’s first minority assistant superintendent in 2012.

“The fact that she is an African-American female who has achieved her doctorate and is now the second command of our district is just remarkable,” Snowden said. “Students who are under the minority (demographics) can feel empowered when they get a chance to see Dr. Adell and Dr. Patterson lead our school district … They can all see that it can be done”

Like the time her grandparents bought her a set of encyclopedias, Patterson said her family’s unconditional support empowered her to pursue her dream of becoming a lifelong educator and learner.

“My grandparents really believed in education and they were instrumental in making sure I had all my school supplies, as needed,” Patterson said.

The strong support and empowering belief Patterson had received from her grandparents inspired her to make those two things as core values of how she wanted to approach her students.

“My family had such strong commitment for my success and they all set high expectations for me,” Patterson said. “Those family values are how I envision treating my students: to treat everyone fairly.

“I know as society, we are often caught up in labeling some of these kids, but I really think that if you treat a child better than what they think they are, the child will be able to go as high as they can go academically and in life.”

Adell said he has seen Patterson’s vision of empowering her students come into fruition in-person several times.

“I really admire the way she interacts with the students when they go into the classrooms,” Adell said. “She has (genuine) love for kids and they all just seem to flock to her wherever she goes. I think that is indicative of her life’s work.”

In addition to winning her students over, Adell said it was evident from the moment he took over as superintendent that Patterson has been tireless in her commitment to make sure HPS students have all the tools they need to succeed academically.

One project that comes to both Adell and Patterson’s minds was the tag-team effort they showed with their push to improve literacy in the students.

For example, Adell has been working on the “Bookmobile,” a delivery system that gives children without transportation to a local library a chance to access books.

Patterson’s role in improving literacy is by holding curriculum conferences, where teachers can work together to tweak their curriculum, and then meeting with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) to either collaborate or receive consultation on how things can be improved.

Both Adell and Patterson said their two respective approaches intertwine for their common goal of helping students with their literacy.

“We both realized in a very short period of time that we really wanted to create an environment that personalizes the educational experience of each kid,” Adell said. “It was refreshing – and even relieving – to know that she was on the same page that I was on, when coming here.”

Their efforts have paid off earlier in September, as NCDPI removed HPS from its list of “low-performing” school district, based on preliminary findings from the 2016 Ready accountability data. Those scores reflect the fourth year of the READY accountability model with its focus on career and college readiness and high standards.

Patterson called HPS’s ability to avoid an academic stigma as a “huge relief.”

“It was the product of recent success in strategic planning and strong leadership from (Dr. Adell),” Patterson said. “We still got plenty of work to do. We have reasons to celebrate but we need to keep going.”

To keep the positive momentum going, Patterson will lead the district-wide curriculum conference near the end of the month to give teachers a chance to collaborate and improve their curriculum. On top of that, new teachers in the district are going through a series of orientations.

She said one of the main focuses for the current academic school year is to assign new HPS teachers with research articles based on the theme of each month.

Patterson said September was dedicated on classroom management.

“These new (HPS) teachers are getting accustomed to different types of students to work with: from academically and intellectually gifted students, to students who speak English as a second language, etc.” Patterson said. “The goal is to provide them with additional articles to read about accommodating different types of students.”

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