Union Teacher Readies Students for High School
By EMILY RAMSEY
PREPARING FOR TRANSITION: The Eighth Grade Center’s Teacher of the Year Patti Evans discusses a recent math project. Evans teaches pre-algebra to students with learning disabilities, such as ADHD and visual impairments. Evans makes sure students are learning grade level material, which builds their confidence and better prepares them for the next step of high school algebra.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
Patti Evans knows she represents an important transition for her eighth grade students. Evans teaches pre-algebra at the Union Eighth Grade Center to students with learning disabilities, such as and visual impairments.
“I’m a stepping stone laying the foundation of math before they get to high school algebra,” she says.
She is in her 18th year of teaching and her fourth with Union Public Schools.
For Evans, the choice to enter special education was easy because she knew it wouldn’t be easy. “I like a challenge,” she says. “If someone says that a child can’t, I want to prove that they can. I want to help them overcome their fears and build their confidence.”
Yet, that high level of commitment needed by teachers, especially those in special education, often causes many to burn out quickly.
Evans attributes her job contentment to the age level she teaches. Evans has taught only secondary grades 7th and up; she feels these ages are better suited for her personality which is more “rigid and direct,” she says. “(Teachers) have to be realistic with what age (they) decide to teach.”
While Evans’ students may struggle in unique ways, Evans does not see that as a reason to avoid teaching grade level material. She regularly changes her curriculum and adjusts her methods to meet the needs of each individual student.
“I teach on grade level but at a pace that’s comfortable and modified to their understanding (while bridging) any knowledge gaps they may have,” she says. Ensuring that her students are learning the same material as their fellow students leads Evans to arguably her greatest feeling of satisfaction in the classroom: seeing students grow in confidence.
“It’s nice to see students come to class and be excited and ask, ‘what are we going to learn today?’” she says. “They want to answer questions and be involved in our discussions because they are confident in their skills now.
“And they feel a sense of pride that ‘I get it. I’m doing the same work as my peers—grade level work.’ It just has to be explained in a way that they get.”
Evans was named the Eighth Grade Center’s Teacher of the Year. This is her second time to receive the recognition; the first time came when she taught with Tulsa Public Schools.
“I feel like the other teachers here are 10 times better than me, but it feels good to be able to represent the special ed. and math departments,” she says.
“But no matter if I received this award, I come into this classroom every day and this is my joy.”