By JEN CARDINES
Southington High School students have had the pleasure of being taught social studies by the district’s top teacher. Last week, Superintendent Tim Connellan, Town Councilor and DePaolo Middle School vice principal Chris Palmieri, and SHS principal Brian Stranieri paraded into Candace Patten’s room with a bouquet of flowers to give her some good news. Patten was named the Southington Public Schools’ 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.
The honor is district-wide, so out of every teacher in Southington’s public schools, Patten was chosen for the distinction. “Honestly, the decision gets harder each year because we have such an amazing teaching staff in Southington,” said Palmieri, who runs the Teacher of the Year committee.
After being nominated by another teacher, Patten had to complete an application that was reviewed by a committee. Palmieri said that the application process is very rigorous and models the State of Connecticut’s Teacher of the Year application.
“She did a phenomenal job,” he said. “We were looking for someone with a great commitment to the profession, philosophies of teaching, and contributions.”
After earning her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Studies in 2002 from Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), Patten became a long-term substitute at SHS, where she was offered a full-time teaching position the following year. She then earned her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from CCSU in 2010 and returned back to earn her 6th-year Professional Degree in Educational Leadership in 2014.
“I am truly blessed to work with so many talented colleagues and because of our collaboration and teamwork, I am able to grow as an educator every year,” said Patten.
Patten’s commitment to the district and her students spans far beyond teaching civics and psychology. She was a class advisor for four years for the classes of 2008 and 2012, was a co-advisor for the Best Buddies Program from 2014 until 2016, served as a member of the advisory committee from when it began until 2015, and has chaperoned numerous proms, dances, and sporting events since 2002.
Additionally, she serves on the district’s Healthy and Wise Committee, and was one of the first teachers to jump on board when Board of Education member and former social studies teacher Bob Brown sought volunteers to teach a lesson on homelessness. She altered the lesson plan to fit her freshman civics class and opened discussion about the impacts that homelessness has on society.
“My father told me that when picking a career, you want to enjoy what you do and I absolutely love teaching,” Patten said. “I drive to work excited to teach because of my incredible department, co-teacher, and each student who always walks into the classroom ready to learn with the greatest smiles on their face.”
Her service doesn’t stop there. The Teacher of the Year volunteered for Relay for Life with the SHS team for many years, including leading the team from 2013 to 2015. She has volunteered at the Apple Harvest Festival with the multicultural club, led the walking club, and helped create videos for STEPS and STEM. She is the co-advisor for Training for Tomorrow, and has conducted a food and clothing drive for a women’s shelter in Danbury.
Now, Patten can represent Southington in the Connecticut Teacher of the Year competition. She will complete another application, much like the one she did in town, to be considered a top Connecticut educator.
Southington Public Schools will recognize Patten at the 2017-2018 staff convocation on August 28, and will also honor her with a reception prior to a Board of Education meeting in September.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.