A Notre Dame third-grade teacher talks about why he thinks he is right where he belongs — even if Coach K called.
Notre Dame teacher Bob Patterson says one of his dream jobs might be coaching alongside Mike Krzyzewski at Duke University. But this now twelve-year member of the NDPMA faculty—and coach—thinks teaching third graders is a privilege and can’t really picture himself doing anything else.
“My father started his career in the education field, my sister is an elementary school teacher, and my brother is a speech pathologist at a middle school,” Patterson says. “It was a natural choice for me to be highly involved in education. But not only do I love teaching, I also love coaching and being around athletics, as my students are well aware.”
Currently armed with a BS in education from Eastern Michigan University and an MAT from Marygrove College, Patterson started teaching in the public schools, first as a student teacher and then as a sub for about a year and a half in some bigger school districts. “But bigger isn’t always better,” he says. “I also tried a few business opportunities, but realized very quickly that teaching was where I needed to be.”
Patterson started at Notre Dame teaching third grade twelve years ago and has never looked back. “I really enjoy working with third graders because they are in that in-between stage, where they are moving from lower elementary to the more mature upper levels,” he notes. “I enjoy guiding them through this part of their elementary years. We have fun and we learn at the same time.”
Patterson himself is a product of a Catholic-school education and knows that its inherent values and generally smaller class sizes were helpful to him. So coming to Notre Dame felt familiar and just right.
“My first impression of Notre Dame was that it was a good Catholic-school community. Being a graduate of a relatively small Catholic high school, Cardinal Mooney Catholic, I felt right at home at Notre Dame because when one is in a smaller close-knit environment, it is easier to get to know families and it simply feels more welcoming.”
He says he owes a lot to his experience at Mooney because of the Catholic teaching and the opportunities he had there in athletics. “All of that helped me to become a more confident young adult and I bring that love of Catholic education to Notre Dame where we embody the very same values and educational foundation.”
When Patterson first came to the Notre Dame community as a third-grade teacher, the lower division was located in Waterford on the campus of St. Benedict’s parish. But since then he says his division and Notre Dame in general has seen big and positive changes.
“Because of Father Leon’s vision to have all three divisions near each other, a new building was built across from the big campus and now here we are,” Patterson says. “This new building is fantastic and I’m sure there will be much more growth in the future. Since teaching at Notre Dame, I’ve also seen the building of new athletic facilities, such as the Grimaldi Athletic Center, new weight rooms in the Wroubel Center as well as many academic and classroom updates.”
IB important differentiator
Patterson also notes that the number of teachers has also grown since he started at the school to accommodate an influx of many new students. But he thinks the most important thing to happen to NDPMA in the last twelve years was the introduction of the International Baccalaureate to the school.
“IB has taken our curriculum to a new level and it has become a real differentiator when compared with other Catholic and independent private schools,” he says. “And I feel it has made our students better thinkers and investigators. It is a great feeling to know that we are the only Catholic school in the nation with IB from junior-kindergarten through twelfth grade. It’s important and a big deal for us.”
What’s also important and a big deal for Patterson is how he relates to his students. “As a teacher, I think it’s extremely important to form strong relationships with students and to be able to show that I care about them as people,” he says. “Relationships are built through trust and open communication, which happens throughout the day in little conversations, class lessons, and the unplanned “teachable” moments that third graders so often encounter.” He also feels that strong relationships with parents and colleagues are important as well. “Parents and teachers working together to guide the students is critical to their success,” he adds.
One of his fellow teachers at Notre Dame, however, became an especially important relationship to Patterson a few years ago. Kelly (Cole) Patterson and Bob met while Kelly was teaching in the lower division. [She has since moved to the middle division.] They married in June of 2009 and the happy couple is expecting their first child in February.
The Pattersons recently moved to Lake Orion where they both enjoy running, attending sporting events, summer concerts, and spending lots of time with their families. And they look forward to an annual trek to Florida during Easter break.
Bob also looks forward to March Madness when the NCAA basketball tournament occurs. In his spare time, he plays pick-up basketball on a mens league and the college tournament is always on his radar. “Assisting Coach K at Duke in the NCAAs would be awesome,” he says. “Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he!”
But he is very happy where he is and plans to stay put for a while. “Working in a school, I have the best of both worlds because I get the opportunity to both teach and coach!”
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.