A Chat with Arizona’s Charter School Teacher of the Year

Dr. Patti Pearson, a thirteen year teaching veteran, is considered one of the “gems” of the BASIS.ed network, teaching mathematics and coaching boys and girls sports for both middle school and high school students.

Indeed, Dr. Pearson was known as a fantastic teacher before she was named the Arizona Charter School “Teacher of the Year” in 2014, and the well deserved award was met with much fanfare within BASIS.ed and at BASIS Chandler, along with nods of approval from across the Arizona educational spectrum.

“All of the teachers here at BASIS really deserve this award as much as I do,” Dr. Pearson says in this fantastic video produced by the Arizona Charter Schools Association following Dr. Pearson’s award.

Vectors caught up with Dr. Pearson late last year, and she is as steady and serious about her role as she’s ever been.

1. What makes BASIS Chandler an excellent school?

BASIS Chandler is an excellent school because teaching and learning are taking place at an exceptionally high level throughout the day in every classroom.

Since the inception of our school five years ago, the faculty and staff have purposefully created a culture where academic achievement is greatly valued. I think this has come about because our faculty is made up of people who are highly educated, well read, and actually enjoy participating in academic discussions in the faculty lounge between classes!

The students notice their teachers’ enthusiasm for learning and that motivates them to become absorbed in the instruction they are receiving.

2. When did you decide to become a teacher?

I decided to become a teacher when I was old enough to realize that my mother was a teacher. My mother loved teaching and she adored her students. Yet, I had an idea in high school that I could not teach until I had gone out into “the workforce” for at least a little while so that I would have interesting anecdotes to share with my future students. Consequently, I was a claims adjuster for a commercial insurance company for a few years and I do have some interesting stories from those years that I share with the high school students in my “Foundations in Personal Finance” elective course.

3. What are your goals, as a teacher, both day to day and in the big picture?

I think that my biggest strengths as a teacher come from my abilities to support students in the affective domain. I know that it is important for students to feel valued in the classroom both by me and by their peers. My most powerful tool as a teacher is praise.

Each day my goal is to ensure that the students can demonstrate that they are able to successfully work problems of the kind that I have taught them that day. I want students to recognize that the skills they learn each day are prerequisite to those they will learn in the near future.

In the big picture, my goal is that the students will leave my classroom knowing that I cared about them and that I did my best to help prepare them for their next academic steps.

4. What is something you particularly appreciate about BASIS Chandler, or your role there, that may be considered special, or rare?

I think it is rare that a teacher be able to primarily teach 5th grade math, yet also teach a high school elective and coach high school sports teams. I appreciate that my Head of School allows me to work in both the lower (grade) and upper (grade) schools. I have been privileged to coach both the girls’ and the boys’ varsity volleyball teams at BASIS Chandler. I believe that the experiences I have with the older students enhance my teaching in the younger grades.

5. Your doctorate is in educational technology. When did your love and aptitude for educational technology become apparent?

As an undergraduate, I majored in Economics, but I also took as many computer science classes as I could. I decided to do a Ph.D. program that combined my love for education with my aptitude for coding. For my dissertation, I designed an experimental research study that incorporated an educational software program that I had written.

6. Did you like being a student? What is something you miss about your school days?

I like being a student. I liked it when I was a child, a young adult, and I still like to be a student today. I am not taking any formal classes currently, but I like to attend professional workshops that are germane to either my teaching or my coaching.

The thing I miss most about my school days is the camaraderie I felt with my big group of friends. I have regained some of that by being a member of a dedicated faculty with whom I work on a daily basis.

7. Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I will have been teaching for 18 years. Since both of my children will be in college by that time, it will not be as crucial to me to have the dedicated summer months off to spend with my family. With that in mind, I think I would like to move into school administration. I look forward to learning all the new systems, programs, and policies that would be in place in five years’ time.

Phil Handler

1 Comment

  1. I shared a room with Dr. Pearson for a year, and I can say that it was not only a great learning experience for me, but also a wonderfully fun time. I am an upper school English teacher and had slim experience with the little ones. Hangin’ with Dr. P. and the small fry was just a ball. Her lessons were tight as a drum and delivered with aplomb. Those kids were dedicated and eager little mathematicians by the end of the year. I wish I would have had a couple of math teachers like her. I might have ended up a math teacher myself. Her award is much deserved.

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