2017 Blackboard Award Honoree: Patrice Saunders

Patrice Saunders; photo by Andrew Schwartz

Editor’s note: To read profiles of all 2017 Blackboard Awards honorees, click HERE!

Patrice Saunders
Grade 7, Literacy & Special Education
Village Academy Middle School

Tell us about some of the special joys and challenges you’ve experienced as a teacher.

Sometimes you have that one student that you feel like you can’t help, whether [their struggle] is academic or social and emotional. However, some of the greatest joys come from seeing a struggling student’s confidence grow: When you see a student who has been made to believe that they cannot succeed actually believe in themselves, take risks and advocate for themselves. When students see that success is attainable you know that you have done your job as an educator.

Please share a special project or achievement that you are particularly proud of from this year.

This year I had the opportunity to work closely with my administration to lead a professional learning community around cultural proficiency. As teachers we read, reflected, and discussed classroom practices that allowed us to reflect the cultural diversity of our students. Through this we were able to update libraries, add school events, and update curriculum to be more culturally relevant. As a result of our work, students are more empowered and engaged in lessons.

Elizabeth Willen (The Hechinger Report), Patrice Saunders, John Hurley (Family Media); Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

Over the course of your career, what do you consider your greatest accomplishments?

My greatest accomplishment was making it through my first year teaching. As a career changer and an NYC Teaching Fellow, I struggled with the challenges of being a new teacher. I entered the classroom with less formal training then most teachers and was unsure of my ability to truly help my students. However, I used my first year as a time to build relationships with my students and colleagues and learn as much as I could. I did anything I could to help me grow as a teacher.

What keeps you motivated and committed to being a dedicated and hard-working educator?

I think the fact that I grew up in the neighborhood where I teach drives me. I see myself in the faces of my students. My students—or any students in what would be considered an underprovided community—are me. They are my cousins, nieces, and nephews. I am also privileged to work with some amazing administrators who make sure I have all of the necessary resources and skills to be able to provide a quality education to my students.