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PTK Alumna’s Enthusiasm is Contagious

December, 2018
  • PTK alumna Kayla Patterson
    PTK alumna Kayla Patterson

To meet Quinsigamond Community College alumna Kayla Paterson is like meeting a breath of fresh air. A former Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Alpha Zeta Theta Honor Society Chapter president of the college, Ms. Paterson has never truly left QCC, even though she officially graduated with her associate degree in Elementary Education (EE) in 2016.

Today, she holds a bachelor’s degree in EE from Anna Maria College and is working as a paraprofessional with third and fourth graders at a nearby school district. She is also working several hours each week in the PTK office, a place she fondly refers to as “home.”

Ms. Paterson took the circuitous route to QCC. She said her lifelong dream was to become a teacher and after high school, enrolled in a four-year institution as an elementary education major.

“I was commuting to school and also working full-time. Then life happened and I dropped out. I wasn’t ready for it (college),” she said.

She continued working full-time but knew that she needed to go back to school if she was ever to fulfill her dream of becoming a teacher.

“I knew I could do a two-year college, but wasn’t ready for a four-year commitment. I did my research and chose QCC because it was affordable, was an easier drive, and I had heard good things about it,” she said.

Although she had a great love for teaching, her first collegiate experience had made her a bit gun-shy to major in elementary education at QCC; instead deciding to get her degree in deaf studies. Ms. Paterson quickly became immersed in the college and the deaf studies program, enjoying the classes, professors and her classmates. She was excelling academically, which got her an invitation to become a member of PTK. She was inducted into PTK in 2015 at the same time she was elected the honor society’s president. It was during this timeframe that she was asked by one of her professors if she wanted to become a tutor in the writing center. She jumped at the chance.

She loved the experience so much that when one the students she was tutoring, who happened to be an elementary education student, suggested she become a teacher, a light bulb went off in her head.

“It made me so happy. I loved working with the students and tutoring them. I went home, woke up the next day and came to school and switched my major to elementary education,” she said.

Her core classes in deaf studies transferred easily into the elementary education program and the only classes she had left to take were the education classes. In her education classes, she went to schools in Worcester where she was able to observe teachers in action, which solidified her desire to one day become a teacher. In 2016, she entered Anna Maria College as a junior, excited to complete the next chapter of her education.

“I felt so prepared when I entered Anna Maria. It was a smooth transition. All my education courses were accepted and I started there as a junior. QCC has such a good program. I felt there was nothing I missed out on or didn’t know. Some of the professors at QCC work in the school district and they had so much real-word teaching experience, which was just great,” she said. “I graduated from Anna Maria and I was ready to go into teaching.”

Ms. Paterson also continued working in the PTK office as the Fundraising/Event Specialist part-time, having forged a legacy there by raising thousands for the PTK chapter and its community service projects.

After graduating from Anna Maria she began substitute teaching, while she applied for full-time teaching positions. A short two-week stint as a legal administrative assistant and then a three-week, longer-term substitute teaching position for an area sixth grade class confirmed to her that teaching was the only job she wanted to do.

“Working with the sixth graders during those three weeks was the most tiring of my life, and also the most awesome and rewarding,” she said.

Sadly, the position ended the Friday before Columbus Day; however, as luck would have it, she was offered and accepted a paraprofessional (teaching assistant) in a nearby school district. She began her new position the Tuesday after Columbus Day and hopes to one day to be a teacher and have her own classroom.

She had also previously given up her part-time position in the PTK office at QCC, but the draw of QCC, PTK, and her mentor and friend PTK Advisor Bonnie Coleman, eventually drew her back to the college where she works several hours a week in the PTK office after her teaching job.

“I love working here. QCC and PTK are my home,” she said, adding, “Everyone should start at QCC. It’s affordable, it connects you to so many things and you are getting the best education. Even if you don’t know what you want to do, there is a program here for you. There’s so much variety you will find a program.”

You may also find a “home away from home,” just like Ms. Paterson did.