Industrial teacher's enthusiasm for science wins her UIL award

Feb. 4, 2012 at midnight
Updated Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:04 p.m.

VANDERBILT - Albert Einstein may have taught us that E = MC², but Industrial High School teacher Tia Patton takes the concept of energy to a whole new level.

Patton, a 54-year-old with springy blonde curls, has been teaching science for 28 years.

"I haven't worn out yet," she said with a smirk.

In fact, her momentum keeps compounding. This year, the University Interscholastic League recognized Patton as one of the top 15 UIL sponsors in Texas.

On a regular day in pre-advanced placement physics class, Patton can chitchat with her students about everything from physics equations to prom plans. When it comes to UIL, she's proved versatile as well, coaching her kids in calculator applications, social studies and science.

She seems to strike a balance with her students, teetering on being a friend and mentor, jokester and educator.

"I really like teaching, and I don't teach easy things," Patton said. "I expect more, and I get more, and I've always felt that way about it."

For nearly 30 years, Patton has been charged with getting her kids so pumped up for science, they volunteer their free time to learn more of it for competitions. Her strategy to recruit kids into not only UIL, but also into becoming good students, is simple.

"I find that if I will show interest in the child beyond, 'Do you know your physics? Do you know your chemistry?' that they will respond better. And then they will learn their chemistry or their physics."

Patton said she keeps in touch with her former students, even attending their weddings. She speaks of them with pride and recalls the UIL trips they took together. She's as competitive as a sports coach, she said, hoping her enthusiasm will ooze onto students.

One of her students, senior William Hill, shared the story of when Patton's students asked her what she does over the holiday breaks. The class had been struggling and complaining through some super difficult redox equations, and Patton didn't miss a beat.

"I'm going to do some complicated redox equations because whenever I complete them, I feel a sense of accomplishment," William recounted what Patton said with a smile.

"She definitely is a really unique teacher. There's not going to be any teacher like her," William said.



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