Written by Mary Katherine Westmark Monday, 09 January 2006 05:53
Pat Thomas is Chosen asPat Thomas, Shadeville Teacher of the Year, is a graduate of the Wakulla County School System. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree at Florida State University in Elementary Education, and received her Masters in Educational Leadership from Florida State University in 1996.
Shadeville Elementary School
Teacher of the Year
Shadeville Elementary School
Teacher of the Year
"Getting my masters was an adventure!" says Thomas. "About ten of us (Wakulla County teachers) went back at the same time, and attended our classes on Saturdays."
Thomas, currently teaching Kingergarten, has been teaching in Wakulla County for 29 1/2 years, and will be entering the drop program at the end of this term. "Harold Thurmond hired me at the St. Marks Preschool, and that's how I got started," says Thomas. "I worked there for five years, and I loved working with the little ones."
Thomas says that growing up in Wakulla County, the job opportunities were fairly scarce. She knew she wanted to stay in Wakulla County, and so she decided to become an educator. "I've been very happy with the career I've chosen," says Thomas. "It's a very rewarding job, but you don't do this job for the money."
When asked who influenced her the most in her career choice, Thomas says it was her mother. "I was the only girl in my family and the oldest child, with three brothers. I was always taking care of them. My mother was a great inspiration for me. She is a nurturer, and I guess I got that from her."
Says Thomas, "I am a very caring person, and have been with the little ones for so many years now. Being a teacher is like being a mommy. I tell my kids 'I am your school mom; I have a responsibility to be here for you.' I try to consider the level and ability of each child because they are each unique and different. I work with them based on who they are."
Thomas says she uses a teamwork approach with both the home and school environments. She tries to work closely with the parents to keep them connected with what is going on in her classroom, and feels that good communication with the parents is extremely important.
"We do Mother's Day, Dad's Day, and Grandparents Day," says Thomas. "We do Dad's Day when we are studying the letter 'D'. One dad, who was an electrician, brought in an electronic board for the kids to see. The dads really seem to enjoy their day. They play games with the kids and just hang out, and get to be a kid themselves. They eat lunch with their child, and I think it is so rewarding for both dad and child."
Thomas says the Mother's Day Celebration revolves around a tea for the mothers, with a big presentation in the lunchroom, which includes a slide show of the kids, and music performed by the children. "All of the kindergarten teachers do this together," says Thomas. "Our team of teachers is the best! Communication with each other is one of our strongest attributes. We each have our unique talents to offer the team as a whole. When we bring them all together, it is what makes us so good."
Susan Brazier, Shadeville Principal, says "Pat Thomas is an outstanding teacher who exemplifies professionalism and is a model for other teachers to follow. She combines high standards for student achievement with a sound understanding of child development and what children need to know and be able to do to reach their potential and find future academic success. She is committed to her profession and serves as the president of the WCTA. Pat is also an active member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Teaching Society. Shadeville Elementary is lucky to have a dedicated teacher of her caliber on staff."
"The intrinsic satisfaction of this job is what motivates and inspires me to be better and reach for higher heights," says Thomas. "You must be patient and flexible, but when it comes to self rewards, our profession is the best. You are touching little lives every day, and it inspires you to make a difference in our society, and our world. I try to keep a smile on my face, because I know I may be the brightest spot in their day. Broken families make it so hard for some kids; you can control what happens to their day when they are with you."
Says Kim Scott, a fellow kindergarten teacher at Shadeville, "Pat is the reason I am the teacher I am. I interned under Pat 21 years ago. Pat and my team are why I drive 25 miles one way each day to do my job. The love and caring of my team is what keeps me coming back."
Pat Thomas is a resident of Wakulla County, and has been married to husband Nathan Thomas for 21 years. She has three grown children, and three grandchildren. Her last child is completing college now.
Thomas is a member of the National Education Association, and is currently serving as President of the Wakulla County Teacher's Association (WCTA). She is also a past vice-president and secretary of WCTA. She is an active member of the Jacob Chapel Free Will Church in Tallahassee, where she works with the Mother's Board.
Says Thomas, "My message to a new teacher is this: go into it because you care and want to make a positive difference. Realize you will not be doing it for fame or fortune. You must have the attributes of patience and flexibility, and you must set high expectations for the kids and for yourself. Setting high goals motivates the kids to do better; motivational activities are very important for any level or any skill." One of Thomas' goals for the children each year is to learn to write the numbers 1 to 100 from memory. "Thirteen out of 19 of my children are there already, and we are only halfway through the year."
Thomas says she is honored to have been chosen by her peers as a representative of Wakulla County. "I have always known they cared, but didn't realize how much until I was awarded this title. I have put my all into this job for 30 years, with no half-stepping. This award validates all my hard work."
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