Author James Patterson’s surprise gift benefits eight education students

August 31, 2013

National Merit Finalist. A desire to give back to an inner city community. Inspired by teachers who served as mentors.

These are just some ways to describe eight Emporia State University students who have two very important things in common — they are pursuing education degrees from The Teachers College at Emporia State and, thanks to the generosity of best-selling author James Patterson, they each will receive $6,000 toward their freshman year.

James Patterson“My passion is to get more and more kids excited about reading, and training the next generation of great teachers is essential to that mission,” explained Patterson, who established the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships at Emporia State.

Patterson contacted Emporia State President Dr. Michael D. Shonrock in April to offer the scholarships. Wrote Patterson: “I’ve been looking to bring the Teacher Education Scholarships to more schools and, after studying a number of institutions and programs, I think The Teachers College would be a great addition.”

The author’s books include the Alex Cross and Woman’s Murder Club series for adults and Maximum Ride, Witch & Wizard and Middle School series for young adults. Patterson holds the Guinness record for the author with the most titles to hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.

The Patterson Family Foundation provides funding for scholarships at Vanderbilt University, Manhattan College and the University of Wisconsin, all alma maters of James and Sue Patterson as well as James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships at 17 schools.

Patterson is passionate about getting children to read and believes that teachers are key to the effort, explained Dr. Ken Weaver, dean of The Teachers College.

“Mr. Patterson chose Emporia State University as a recipient of his generosity because he was impressed with how The Teachers College is preparing the next generation of great teachers,” said Weaver. “This gift will make a substantial difference in the lives of these students.”

A prolific author of novels for adults, young adults and middle-school age, Patterson launched a website, Read Kiddo Read, that includes lesson plans for educators to use in teaching a variety of books as well as a forum for teachers to exchange their own lesson plans.

The surprise gift is a significant achievement for Emporia State, according to DenaSue Potestio, Emporia State Foundation president and CEO and vice president for advancement.

“James Patterson’s generous gift will open doors for a new generation of teachers to share his passion for literacy with their students,” Potestio said.

The eight recipients of the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships at Emporia State University are:

  • Michelle Berg of Wichita,
  • Samantha Buchanan of Grantville,
  • Leanne Feathers of Wamego,
  • Jennifer Gottstein of Lawrence,
  • Joseph Hamer of Wichita,
  • Sarah Johnson of Wichita,
  • Travisray Salyers of Eudora, and
  • JaShawn Wallace of Kansas City, Kan.

The new Patterson Scholars talk about the careers they are pursuing and the Patterson Scholarship’s impact on their education plans in a video profile posted on Emporia State University’s YouTube site: http://youtu.be/aN6MhG3Y8pI.

Identifying the recipients was a group effort that happened in a short time frame, Weaver said. After hearing from Patterson and accepting his gift, The Teachers College and university officials created an electronic application procedure that was extensive.

Applicants had to submit:

  • Personal essays about their commitment to become teachers;
  • Statements from at least one parent about their student’s interest in becoming a teacher;
  • Two letters of recommendation from a teacher and high school counselor that included information about their involvement in the Teaching/Training Pathway developed by the Kansas State Department of Education; and
  • A completed supervised experience working with children form.

Because of the quick turnaround, several faculty recommendations came as emails from teachers on summer trips with students.

In all, 54 students applied for the scholarships. A panel of three Teachers College faculty members reviewed the applications and selected 16 students to interview in person or online through Skype or FaceTime before selecting the eight recipients.

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Student profiles

Michelle Berg of Wichita was a junior at Goddard High School when she decided to pursue teaching as a career.

“I realized that I have always enjoyed helping my classmates figure out things they did not understand,” she said. “In fact, in many of my classes there was often a group of people clustered around me asking for help.”

Although Berg had a teaching example in her father, who teaches elementary school, she decided she wanted to try out her chosen career. During her senior year of high school, she had an internship in an elementary classroom for three to four hours a day.

“I loved building relationships with the kids throughout the semester and watching them learn and grow,” she said. “Even better, I knew I had influenced that learning.”

A National Merit Finalist, Berg was offered full-ride scholarships to other institutions.

“I chose Emporia State because I believe it will make me the best teacher I can be.”

Berg is majoring in elementary education.

 

Samantha Buchanan of Grantville adapted the childhood game of playing school to her circumstances. When her younger cousins balked at having the game run like a real school day, Buchanan turned to her stuffed animals as students.

“I’ve stopped playing school with my dolls,” Buchanan said, “but it is my dream to someday play school with a class of real students.”

To further that goal, Buchanan attended Kansas Future Teachers Academy at Emporia State University and selected classes at Perry-Lecompton High School that were part of the education pathway. One class included being a student teacher in a first-grade classroom where she was assigned to help two students improve their reading scores.

“I truly believe that working with the girls had just as much impact on me as it did them,” she said. “I could see them learning more and more each day. When they got excited about a really high score or a story that they actually understood, I got excited with them.

“The feeling of knowing that I had made a difference in their lives was the most amazing feeling.”

Buchanan is majoring in elementary education.

 

Leanne Feathers of Wamego decided her life’s goal back in fifth grade — to attend Emporia State University and become a teacher.

Feathers remembers taking home extra lesson sheets her teachers weren’t using and going home to teach her sister.

“I would have her do the sheets, and I would grade them,” Feather recalled.

She again worked with students during her senior year at Wamego High School where she took a class to be a teacher’s aide, a position that had her developing lesson plans and teaching elementary students.

“I tell people, ‘I am in school, then I will go to college, then I’ll be in school the rest of my life,’” Feathers said. “People just think I'm crazy, but I love school. I would rather be there than anywhere else.”

Feathers is majoring in elementary education.

 

Jennifer Gottstein of Lawrence discovered a love for teaching through the relationship she has found with her own teachers as well as some real-world experience in both the Lawrence School District and during summers volunteering in inner city St. Louis.

“From my mission trips to St. Louis where I tutored students at a summer school and my work within the Lawrence school district, I have observed that teachers can be a second parent to students,” she said.

“Many students’ home lives are broken and failing; coming to school and having a trustworthy teacher smile at them and say, ‘Great to see you today! How are you?’ can mean the world to them.”

The joy students discover as they learn is infectious to Gottstein.

“Whether it be a creative science experiment or witty story, the simplest activities can light up a student’s face. This joy is contagious; it tempts me to re-enroll in elementary school again.”

Gottstein is majoring in elementary education

 

Joseph Hamer of Wichita says he found his calling during his senior year at Maize High School when he took a community service class that had him helping in a first-grade classroom and special education room at Maize Central Elementary School.

“Working with four autistic boys ranging from second to fifth grade,” Hamer said, “my eyes were opened to what makes my heart happy.”

After high school graduation, Hamer worked full-time with The Arc of Sedgwick County, a nine-week summer program for people ages 5 to 21 with special needs. It combined a classroom setting in the morning with activities in the afternoon.

“This full-time summer job only solidifies my passion to work with special needs students,” Hamer said.

Hamer is majoring in elementary education.

 

Sarah Johnson of Wichita discovered that her childhood dream of becoming a teacher survived the closer examination of career exploration projects during her time at Eisenhower High School.

“When the counselors in high school started talking about career planning,” Johnson said, “I finally had to take a step back and think about whether I truly wanted to become a teacher.

“There were so many new options that I could look into. With those options came figuring out whether my childhood dream to become a teacher was something I would truly like or if it stemmed from what was familiar to me.”

In the end, Johnson said, she faced the realities of a teaching career — lower salary than other careers, days that might not feel rewarding — and concluded that being a teacher is still the career she wanted.

Johnson is majoring in secondary English education in English.

 

Travisray Salyers of Eudora discovered his future in Angie Brown’s classroom at Eudora High School.

“Since I was in elementary school, I have desired to be a teacher,” Salyers said. “It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I gained interest with business when I took Accounting I with Mrs. Brown, and I was introduced to the organization Future Business Leaders of America.

“From that moment on, I realized my future of being a business educator.”

Salyer’s goal is to emulate the special teachers who had impacts on his life.

“I want my students to remember me not just for being their teacher but as their mentor and friend who was there for them at all times, the same way many of my teachers have done for me.”

Salyers is majoring in secondary business education.

 

JaShawn Wallace of Kansas City, Kan., has discovered the true value of teaching.

“I believe teaching is much like any public service,” he said. “The work is hard, the hours are long and the compensation does not match the workload. Any teacher would agree that the desire to teach comes from the heart.

“To take a young mind and fill it with knowledge that will someday empower them is priceless.”

A graduate of Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, Wallace hopes to give back to his community after earning his degree.

“I want to teach in my community because the startling thing about growing up in the inner city is that you don’t encounter many dreamers,” he said, noting that a teacher early in his life encouraged him to create his own destiny.

“You are surrounded by young people who cannot see what lies ahead because they are in a battle to live for the moment. When you have spent time with kids who worry about things some of us take for granted like food, clothing and shelter, then you realize where you are needed.”

Wallace is majoring in secondary history and government education.

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