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Flipping the Script

Flipping the Script


For most of Debra Patrick’s childhood, a career in education was unthinkable.

From first to ninth grades, Patrick EdD’22 was bullied and frustrated with learning. She developed a dread of school, where she couldn’t find the compassion and motivation that are so essential to student success.

In 10th grade, however, Patrick met Mrs. McGlamory, whose teaching style and the attention she paid to her students turned things around. “I stopped struggling, and discovered a love of reading, devouring every book I could,” Patrick recalls. “I even wrote a chapter book!”

Frustrating early childhood experiences and the inspiration of a great teacher sparked what would become Patrick’s lifelong passion for teaching, and ultimately her completion of a Doctor of Education degree at Alverno.

After receiving her bachelor’s, master’s and specialist degrees in education, Patrick started her doctoral coursework at a different school in 2007. Unfortunately, several unplanned family medical emergencies put her pursuit on hold.

Several years later, Patrick discovered that the new principal at her school, Tangela Benjamin EdD ’22, was going to pursue her Doctorate in Education at Alverno. The following weekend, the two women worked together to submit Patrick’s application. Patrick’s previous doctoral coursework was approved, and she was accepted into Alverno’s doctoral program in January 2020.

At first, Patrick was intimidated by the superintendents, principals and school leaders in her cohort. “I kept thinking, what do I have to offer? But then I read The Dissertation Journey, a comparison of the dissertation process to mountain climbing and how we were all tethered together and what would we experience along the journey. I discovered I had a lot more knowledge to offer others than I thought.”

Having Benjamin in the doctoral program was also beneficial. “I was fortunate to have someone on this journey with me. We held each other accountable and worked together to ensure we made it through,” Patrick says.

In December 2022, Patrick traveled from Georgia to Wisconsin for commencement, and 14 of her family and friends cheered her on. “They came from Georgia, Colorado, Illinois and Barbados, West Indies. We are a close-knit family, and always support each other,” she says.

Patrick received her doctoral degree after teaching in elementary schools for 33 years and being awarded the Teacher of the Year in her school district twice. She is scheduled to retire from Clayton County Public Schools at the end of the 2022-23 school year.

She’s not done yet.

The experiences Patrick endured in her younger life inspired her mission to help students. She’s looking forward to teaching an undergraduate course for educators.

“A lot of the reasons students struggle with reading is because teachers do not have the knowledge themselves,” she explains. “My class will focus on pedagogy and give future educators the knowledge and skills they need to help children.”

Patrick’s educational journey at Alverno helped renew her focus. “What I went through as a child sparked my passion for the work I do. Everyone has a gift and a talent, and once you know what you can offer to the world, never give up on achieving that goal.”

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