Savannah Patterson, a biology teacher and a UNC alumna, was named the teacher of the year at Cedar Ridge High School.
Patterson represents CRHS as a contender for the title of 2023 Orange County Schools Teacher of the Year, among 12 other candidates.
“It is absolutely well-deserved," Jamye Carr, the lead teacher of the science department at CRHS, said. "She works incredibly hard and invests everything she has into her students."
According to Patterson, CRHS principal Anna Hipps requested nominations from the faculty for the school’s teacher of the year. Nominees were not limited to teachers — one nominee was an exceptional children staff member. This year, there were five nominations.
Once received, the nominations were compiled in an electronic form with personal testimonials from each nominee and sent to the faculty, who indicated their choice for the title.
Patterson has already submitted a resumé, letters of reference and two personal essays for the OCS Teacher of the Year selection process, but she still needs to do an interview, she said.
She also said she feels mixed emotions about earning the teacher of the year title. Though she is honored to be recognized, she believes many of her colleagues are worthy of earning the title.
As a first-generation college student, Patterson said she struggled with imposter syndrome during her first year at UNC.
“I never felt good enough, I never felt smart enough,” she said.
However, after being introduced to the UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching program, Patterson discovered she enjoyed teaching science. She later became a student teacher at CRHS.
“I didn’t necessarily grow up wanting to be a teacher,” Patterson said. “But I found it at Carolina, and I was good at it.”
As a student teacher, Carr said Patterson contributed new ideas and lessons to the science department and adapted lessons to make them more relevant to students.
Patterson said she enjoys teaching biology because she often encounters students who have been told they are not capable of doing science, and she can help them overcome this mindset through her teaching.
“I will never downplay the fact that science is inherently a part of our entire society, but the human aspect of my job is why I get out of bed every day,” she said.
Gwendolyn Johnson, an assistant principal at CRHS, said Patterson goes above and beyond to create an environment where her students are engaged, encouraging them to be lifelong learners.
“She builds great relationships with her students,” Johnson said.
Carr said Patterson is a good communicator and is understanding of her students and coworkers.
“She embodies the compassion we love to see in our teachers,” Carr said.
Carr also said that, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Patterson voiced concerns on behalf of her colleagues during faculty meetings.
According to Carr, many teachers were expected to simultaneously provide the same instruction to students working in-person and remotely. During this time, Patterson served as a voice for the teachers at CRHS in discussions with school leadership.
“She’s more than just a teacher," Carr said. "She’s an advocate for all of us."
It is likely the OCS Teacher of the Year will be announced next month. The 2022-2023 OCS Teacher of the Year was announced on May 2, 2022.
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