2017 Blackboard Award Honoree: Patrick Catalano

Patrick Catalano; photo by Andrew Schwartz

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

Patrick Catalano
Geometry & AP Calculus
MESA Charter High School

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

My greatest joy as a teacher is being part of a school community where teachers and students genuinely care about one another. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the MESA community since it opened its doors nearly four years ago and I believe that our accomplishments all stem from the bonds we have formed. My coworkers bring so much of themselves to the classroom and it inspires me to bring my quirkiness and enthusiasm to my work.

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

This year, I am particularly proud of the seniors who pushed themselves to take AP Calculus—the first AP math course offered at our school. It was a very difficult course for me to teach and was a challenge for my students, but they stuck with it from start to finish and took a great deal of pride in their efforts. Watching my students start from algebra as freshmen and work their way up to college level math has been extremely rewarding.

Elizabeth Willen of the Hechinger Report, Patrick Catalano, and Jonathan Moore of Family Media at the 2017 Blackboard Awards for Teachers. Photo by Daniel S. Burnstein

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

I consider my greatest accomplishment to be the level of perseverance and empathy that my students have developed. Math is a subject that can produce a lot of stress, but my students have learned to face struggles head-on and celebrate their strengths. They are eager to help one another and are often able to explain ideas better than I can. Years of building relationships within the classroom have helped both my students and myself understand that learning happens when we look out for one another and seek to understand how to reach people. I have learned a tremendous amount from my students.

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

I am driven by the genuine good that I see in young people. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than watching what they can do when they are given the love and support that they deserve, especially through difficult times. Watching the first graduating class of seniors emerge as strong, intelligent, caring people makes every step along the way worthwhile.