Kids love Cabarrus Teacher of the Year
By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — Every student is a smarty in Janelle Patterson’s kindergarten class at Royal Oaks Elementary.
“You are the smartest kids in North Carolina,” she said Monday as the students adjusted cardboard clocks to show 3 o’clock.
Patterson, who was named the Cabarrus County Teacher of the Year earlier this month, said there is no place for negativity in her classroom.
“I do not have an iron fist by any stretch of the imagination. I’m all about love and logic,” she said. “I want them to love school, I want them to get excited about learning.”
The Salisbury native describes her teaching style as “ridiculous positive.”
“I think positive reinforcement is the ticket to good classroom management,” she said. “All my directions are positive and encouraging. I just want the kids to feel confidence in my classroom.
Patterson said students respond well to her sunny attitude.
“If you show them you love them and believe in them they will work so hard for you,” she said.
Patterson said her upbringing plays a major role in how she teaches. Her father, Eddie Beaver, was a pastor and she attended a Christian school until the 10th grade. Her mother, Terri Russell, was a stay-at-home mother.
“I was raised being taught to really love people and to be kind to people,” she said. “My mom always told me it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside if your inside is ugly.”
Patterson said although teaching the curriculum is her primary goal, it’s not her only focus.
“I want to teach them how to love one another, how to be honest, how to be trustworthy,” she said.
Teacher assistant Lia Jackson said Patterson does a good job of addressing the whole student.
“She does an excellent job at preparing each child for first grade academically, but also she is concerned for their emotional and physical well-being,” she said. “She finds something special in each one of them and highlights those gifts that help each one of them shine.”
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Patterson, 27, said she wanted to be a teacher since she started kindergarten herself at the age of five.
“I never ever changed my mind. I’ve never even considered doing anything else” she said. “I always tell people it’s the one thing in life that I got right on the first try.”
After graduating from East Rowan High School in 2001, Patterson went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in child and family development from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
She returned to Rowan County to work for a private More at Four prekindergarten program for a year before taking job at Royal Oaks.
Patterson worked as a prekindergarten teacher at Royal Oaks for a year before switching to kindergarten.
She said she enjoys working with younger children because they are essentially “blank slates” when they walk through her door.
“You can do a lot of molding and life changing when they are young,” she said. “I truly believe that kindergarten sets the tone for the rest of your years in education. If I can give them a positive experience it might keep them from dropping out later.”
Patterson said working with kindergartners can be challenging.
“A lot of kids, when they come to school they just literally have no idea what to do. … You have to teach them how to walk, how to hug appropriately,” she said.
But, Patterson said, the hard work is worth it.
“You watch them grow up and bloom into little smarties,” she said. “Its a very, very rewarding to see them come in not knowing what a pencil is and to leave reading 250 words books.”
Patterson said working at Royal Oaks has helped her fulfill another goal, teaching disadvantaged children.
She said the Title I school has a good mix of students from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds.
“They are the kids that really need somebody to believe in them, the kids who need some extra help and encouragement,” she said.
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Patterson said she’s still shocked that she was named the district’s Teacher of the Year.
“I never dreamed in a million years I would actually win, I was so humbled and so honored,” she said. “The way my husband and my parents reacted when I won was way better than getting the award because they were so excited.”
Melody Marsh, the kindergarten through second-grade lead teacher at Royal Oaks, said Patterson’s win is well deserved.
“She’s an outstanding, teacher and friend,” she said. “She is just phenomenal, you can tell she is different than the average teacher …she was born to teach, it’s obvious.”
Jackson said Patterson’s relationships with parents and staff make her a “blessing to all who are around her.”
When Patterson joined the Royal Oaks staff five years ago, Marsh said she immediately became part of the family.
“Teachers adore her, parents adore her and her students are enthralled by her,” she said. “I think kids can sense that she truely cares about them and loves them.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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