Holly Patinsky, Grayhawk Elementary

Holly Patinsky - Special Education - Grayhawk Elementary - PVHeroes Teacher Appreciation Week

Q & A with Holly Patinsky

Learn about featured teacher Holly Patinsky of Grayhawk Elementary School as she answers a series of questions about her background, teaching goals, personal life, and more:

Where did you grow up?

Down the East Coast and the Midwest. My father worked for International Business Machines (IBM), but we nicknamed it, "I’ve Been Moved." I moved every two years. I was born in New Jersey, but I’ve lived in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and then I came out here for college, and I went to Arizona State University (ASU), and I’ve been here ever since. I chose ASU and then ASU got a grab on me, and I want to stay here.

How many years have you been teaching?

I have been teaching for 37 years – 36 in the Paradise Valley school district. I spent 20 years at Sandpiper, and I also taught at North Ranch Elementary and Echo Mountain Primary.

Years teaching at your current school?

I moved to Grayhawk Elementary last year. Our program didn’t have any more room at Sandpiper Elementary, and they moved our program up here to Grayhawk, so this will be the conclusion of my second year at Grayhawk.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I think when I was younger, besides wanting to be a mother, I did play teacher a lot. I don’t know that I firmed it up until I was in high school, but I did know by my senior year that I wanted to become a teacher. My first year, I went to school in Boston at an all-teacher college: It was called Wheelock, and it was a very small college. I spent one year there, but I didn’t like living in the city, and that’s when I transferred to ASU.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I care deeply about children and that they are treated equally and fairly. I have found a place in special education. A lot of times, it does seem that they weren’t dealt the same set of cards as some other children, by no fault of their own. And they deserve the equal education that everyone else gets, and I care about their feelings. I want to make sure each child is happy and feels safe and taken care of at school.

Why did you choose to teach your Grade Level/Subject?

I believe deeply that early childhood is very important. It’s been proven that those early formative years and the cognitive skills, the social skills, and the emotional skills that they’re learning, it’s a foundation for the rest of their life. I think if we can envelop those children in love and compassion and provide for them the best education in their early years, they will love school and hopefully stay in school.

What is your favorite part about teaching?

My favorite part about teaching is coming each day and seeing those happy, smiling faces, and the hugs and the kindness you get from the students. I think it also helps that no two days are the same, so you don’t ever get bored. Every day mixes it up just a little bit, so you just never know what surprises are waiting for you.

What gets you through the tough days?

I think what gets me through the tough days is that no two days are the same. If one day is tough, the next day is going to be easier. None of us ask for how we turn out in life – what we are given – and so my special needs students, if they have disabilities and difficulties, it was not by choice. And I want to make sure that I give them empathy and compassion, and provide them the education that everyone else gets.

Beyond the lesson plan, what do you hope your students learn in your classroom?

I try to teach the Golden Rules. I try to teach manners, empathy, compassion, and inclusion of everyone – acceptance of everyone’s differences. Of course, the phonics and the math and everything are important, but that only gets you so far in life. It’s those social skills and forming friendships and being a true and honest friend that get you through all of life, so I hope those things are what they take from me when they walk out the door.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to a teacher?

Take each day at a time and start each day thankful for each day, and then end each day for the good in the day. No two days are going to be the same, and if you had a bad day, the next day will be easier. Don’t let things weigh on you. Have something that brings you peace and can center yourself – whether that be yoga, reading, swimming, running – but have something that rejuvenates you.

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to spend time with my family. I love gardening and reading. A little bit of cooking. I’m not the best cook. What I love is sitting down with my whole family at the table, so I will prepare anything from a recipe if I can spend that meal with my whole family and my three children.

If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

If I could have one superpower it would be to cure illnesses, some of the diseases that we have.


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