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Cecily Patton – Canyon Rim Academy

Dear KSL Teacher Feature,

I have enjoyed listening to Teacher Feature on KSL for years, and now I need to write this letter… because in life it seems we humans are often too quick to find and criticize the failings of those around us, and too slow to see the good, and then take the time to recognize, compliment, and express gratitude.

Three years ago our daughter was in a public elementary school and struggling. She was doing poorly academically and having frequent behavioral problems. She hated school and her attitude was impacting life outside of school. After a particularly embarrassing and depressing Parent Teacher Conference, we made the decision to pull her out of the public school and home school her. The behavior problems greatly diminished, but being a very social child, this was not the right solution for her either.

Then we were made aware of a new charter school, Canyon Rim Academy (CRA). We applied and were fortunate to get in. Our daughter’s experience there ever since has been radically different! I will not take time to talk about the wonderful educational concepts and leadership of CRA, nor her experience with the other great teachers there; I would just like to focus on Mrs. Cecily Patton, her 6th grade teacher…a truly remarkable teacher.

The first couple of weeks of the school year our daughter was up and down as to whether she was going to like her. Mrs. Patton’s priority is giving you an exceptional classroom, nor tolerate disrespect or a lot of horsing around, but she does it all in a kind way. Once our strong willed daughter realized who was “in charge”, realized Mrs. Patton really cared about her personally, but cared too much to let her be less than she was capable of, and discovered how much fun Mrs. Patton made learning… our daughter has grown to love Mrs. Patton.

A little over a week ago, my wife and I had one of the best Parent Teacher Conferences we have had with any of our six children… some of them exceptional students. Our daughter not only had straight A grades… even in math that previously she has said she hated, but she had also scored very high on the state and national testing. I think the most rewarding feedback, for us as parents, was when Mrs. Patton raved about the remarkable change in her behavior… describing it as a quantum change. She said they had really been focusing on sportsmanship at recess and that our daughter had change to become one of the very best in the class. Mrs. Patton expressed how proud she was of her for accomplishing such a dramatic shift in attitude and behavior… something she said most people are seldom able to accomplish. Our daughter just beamed, and we were bursting our buttons. And, honestly, this father had a few tears of happiness and gratitude he was struggling to hide. The bond of closeness and respect our daughter and Mrs. Patton felt for each other were very evident and touching.

There is so much I could tell you as evidence of Mrs. Patton being an exceptional l teacher, but I’ll just use three for four recent examples:

–Mrs. Patton is a violist. At the first of the school year, she got all her students excited to learn to play the violin. However, before they could begin to play, she taught them that they needed to become united as a class; they had to become a team to be able to play well together. So, before giving them violin lessons, they worked for a number of weeks on cooperative behavior, teamwork, sportsmanship, unity, respect and caring for each other. After they had become a close team, she got a violin for each student and gave them violin lessons about three times a week. People in the school (with connections), were so impressed with how quickly the students had learned and how well they played together, that they arranged for them to be invited to perform in an already scheduled concert with a couple of other performing groups. The event was a music appreciation concert for third graders from around the valley, held in Libby Gardner hall at the University of Utah. The kids were so excited; you would have thought they had been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall.

–Monday, 3 – 14 was “Pi Day” (Pi in math is 3.14). They discussed how to find the area of a circle using Pi and related math problems. Mrs. Patton taught them a little poem about how to find the area of a circle on the ground, and then they drew circles on the ground (floor of the classroom) and calculated the area of each. Then they had a competition with another class outside to see who could yell “3.14159” the loudest. They ended their celebration of Pi Day by eating cherry and apple pie.

–Tuesday, March 15… called “The Ides of March”… being the date on which Julius Caesar was murdered by conspirators. The kids all went to school in their togas, and, in small groups of 4, each entertainingly reenacted for the other sixth grade classes different scenes from Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar that their small groups had each previously developed.
Mrs. Patton then had the kids group all their desks together in the shape of Roman triciniums, where the students then reclined. Mrs. Patton and the teacher’s aid, then played the role of being the kids personal slaves at a Roman feast, and fed the kids grapes, bread, dates, “wine” (grape juice), and almonds dipped in honey. (Our daughter informed us that the Romans were healthier than we are because they didn’t have sugar in their diets, they only had honey.)

I should mention here, that for about the past six weeks Mrs. Patton has been teaching the students about Rome and Roman life. She has taken an integrated approach teaching geography, history, English, and art together. The students learned about Roman life style, their homes, what they ate, how aqueducts supplied them with water, about their sewer system, about their government, building architecture, recreation and sports, beliefs, etc. etc. They read Julius Caesar together. They had a creative writing assignment to each come up with a new Olympic event by combining two or three other sports together (some were pretty hilarious and some had interesting possibilities).

Next week, at the schools Core Knowledge Expo, Mrs. Patton’s students will recreate the ancient city of Pompeii, displaying the individual Roman villas each student has built. In the center of the city the students have worked as a group to build a Roman forum. This is a group of temples, government buildings, a fountain, trees, etc. that the students have created out of cardboard, paint, clay, etc. The temple of Zeus is the largest building at about 18-20″ tall. As parents and other students visit their exhibit, Mrs. Patton’s students will teach the visitors about the areas of Roman life they have learned about and researched (mentioned above).

–On March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, Mrs. Patton taught the children the true and very interesting background of St. Patrick… who was neither Irish, nor named “Patrick”. He was Roman and abducted by the Irish at a young age.
I wish there was time to tell more, but this has probably gone on too long and I’m sure you can catch the vision of what I’m trying to convey.

I asked our daughter what she felt made Mrs. Patton such an exceptional teacher. She said, because she knows so much, she really loves to teach, she really cares about the students, and she makes learning fun. She said, “She even makes math fun. She actually teaches me so I understand it, without doing the work for me.”

My wife, Becky, said that in the numerous times she had been in the classroom helping and conversations she has had with Mrs. Patton, she feels the best description of her is that she has a great passion and a mission for teaching. Becky said, where our other children’s sixth grade teachers have sought to prepare them for Jr. High School by increasing their knowledge and steeping up the amount of homework, Mrs. Patton has prepared our daughter by increasing her self-esteem and her love of learning. She has helped bring out the best in her academically and behaviorally and shown our daughter what she is capable of.

We can’t express enough how grateful we are for Mrs. Patton’s impact on our daughter, and for the quality of teachers and educational experience at Canyon Rim Academy.

Thank you for your “Teacher Feature” way of recognizing exceptional teachers, who are seldom rewarded and recognized for the powerful impact they have in our children’s lives.

Sincerely,
Roark and Becky Stratton