Co-workers describe Patsy Hart as a “quality educator” at Morrow Elementary, where she teaches third-grade. Recently she was selected as Clayton County Public Schools’ 2014 Teacher of the Year. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
MORROW — Patsy Hart may be relatively new to the teaching profession but she has a wealth of experience in the discipline.
For three decades, Hart’s primary role was as a mother and wife. She split her time helping manage early learning programs — a decade working part-time as a preschool director and 17 years heading a children’s ministry — before pursuing her passion fully.
She graduated from Mid-Atlantic Christian University in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in Christian education. She earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from the University of West Georgia in 2010 as a participant in Clayton County’s Teacher Alternative Preparation Program.
Hart began teaching at Morrow Elementary in 2007, and has not looked back. The third-grade teacher has been bestowed a teacher’s top honor, being named the 2014 Clayton County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.
“There are lots of great teachers in this county,” she said. “And I was blessed to be chosen by my peers.”
Hart raised three children with her husband of 37 years, Joe Hart, who is also a teacher development specialist with the school district. Her children are Noel Stephen Hart, a sixth-grade science teacher at Sequoyah Middle; Jeremy Hart, who is in construction; and Alena Hart, a student at the University of West Georgia.
“I enjoyed my time with them,” said Hart.
She said her family has kept her compassionate and grounded over the years. When her children began leaving home to pursue their careers, she said she seized the chance to fulfill her dreams.
“This career requires long hours,” she said. ” I don’t think people understand that this career requires 12-15 hours every day. But I saw an opportunity to give to others, and I took it.”
Her principal, Tammy Burroughs, is glad she chose teaching.
“It is a calling,” said Burroughs, “because everyone truly cannot do it. Being a teacher, in my opinion, is the second most important job next to being a parent as well as one of the hardest jobs.”
She described Hart as a “quality educator” at Morrow Elementary, which itself was named a 2010 Georgia School of Excellence for greatest academic gains.
“Mrs. Hart is not just a teacher,” added Burroughs. “She is a second mother to that child who needs the extra nurturing. Mrs. Hart is the CEO, judge, doctor, entertainer, comedian, minister and friend to all her students. I am very proud of what she gives in the classroom each day.”
Hart’s classroom is a colorful space filled with interactive learning stations.
Hanging down from the ceiling tiles are several miniature suns made from yellow construction paper graffitied with multiplication problems. The manifestations of a math assignment, they span half the room.
There is also a foam tree standing about seven feet tall in the classroom. A stuffed owl toy is hidden inside a hollowed notch, a stuffed possum toy sits atop a branch and a bee hive hangs from the canopy.
Hart calls it the Habitat of Learning tree, which gets most of its use during lessons in environmental science.
Students are currently learning about minerals and rock forms, she said, explaining why one of her tables was littered with rocks, arrowheads and pebbles.
She takes pride in using her entire room all day long — from the wall of Velcro vocabulary words to the computer caboose where students sit and log on to their laptops to complete online assignments.
Hart said she may have one group of students working on their computers while another group documents what they are learning on paper and a group across the room works hands-on in experimentation.
“Part of the secret is to let them have choice,” she said.
Hart said she provides students with additional books to choose from in addition to what is required by the state’s English/language arts and reading standards. The class, she boasted, has read more than 2,000 Accelerated Reader books already. Her goal is to exceed 5,000 by year’s end.
She makes sure students practice fluency by reading to each other every day.
“This class is noisy,” said Hart. “They’re reading aloud.
“I am a social constructionist,” she added. “I believe we can learn a lot from one another.”
Another goal is to have students reading at or beyond the next grade-level before they leave her classroom. But she said it can be difficult sometimes.
One student came to her classroom from another school a few months ago, reading on a first-grade level; he should have been reading on a third-grade level. Hart said the student is reading at grade level now.
“The goal is to bring them up from where they were,” said Hart. “I’ve always believed that we’re all fearfully and wonderfully made. It is part of my job to help point out in what ways they may be gifted.”