“At the beginning of each school year, I tell my students that my job is to make sure that they are successful in my classroom. As a teacher, my job is to give each student in my classroom the gift of knowledge.”
Pate earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Montevallo before moving to Tuscaloosa to attend law school at the University of Alabama. After earning her doctorate, Pate worked as a lawyer for more than two decades. In 2007, Pate transitioned into education, eventually becoming a Spanish teacher at Sipsey Valley in 2017.
“Having worked in another area, the biggest advantage is the years of experience working with other adults,” Pate said. “Young teachers know how to deal with children but less with parents, administrators, and peers. When a parent calls with a problem, I treat them like I would have treated a client. My law degree taught me how to listen and understand a problem and solve it in a way that will work for everybody.”
Pate also uses the Socratic method in her classes, the same teaching style typically preferred by law school professors. She says the method keeps her students more engaged and helps her interact with each of them every single day. After all, she says it is difficult to learn a new language without using it.
This year, Pate took on a new challenge when she was asked by Tuscaloosa County to begin teaching an English as a second language class. Unlike her usual English classes, this class consists of 13 high school students who came to her without an extensive vocabulary or even the ability to read.
“The biggest challenge is that we can’t always communicate, but I want them to understand that they are loved,” Pate said. “They are brave. Some have never been to school before, and they are scared. I try to communicate with smiles. “
Additionally, Pate acts as an advisor for Sipsey Valley High chapter of the National Honor Society, enabling her students to make a real impact in their school and community. This past fall, the members started a tutoring program for their peers who struggle in math, social studies, and science. By the end of the first semester, 30 to 40 students were receiving free tutoring each week.
“As I reflect on what our National Honor Society did, I am proud to have been a part of this program,” Pate said. “As their advisor, I am honored to have the opportunity to work with these students every day.”