Paschal High School teacher wins excellence award

Paschal High School’s AP U.S. history teacher Patti Sikes is one of the 15 Fort Worth Independent School District teachers chosen for the 2016-2017 Academic Chairs for Teaching Excellence award.

The Chairs for Teaching Excellence program was established by Fort Worth ISD in 1994. The program is modeled after the university-level chair program which is designed to recognize and reward teachers that stand out.

The program has a rigorous selection process. Parents, principals and colleagues may nominate teachers, or they may self-nominate.

Sikes, a teacher for 26 years, was asked to apply for the award as a result of being Paschal’s teacher of the year last year.

Sikes became a teacher for two reasons.

“First, my high school teachers were so invested in me and told me I needed to become a teacher and encouraged me to go to Texas Wesleyan University, which had one of the best history departments and schools of education in the area,” Sikes said.

Her second reason was because of her faith.

“I felt that God had placed a call on my life to teach children,” Sikes said. “Doors were open for me to get into college and a benefactor stepped forward to pay for my entire four years of college.”

Sikes started teaching in the fall of 1973 in her home area of the Everman ISD as an eighth grade U.S. History teacher.

In May of 1976, Sikes said she left teaching to pursue starting a family.

“I had pregnancy difficulties to the extent that I was confined to home, so continuing to teach was problematic,” Sikes said.

She later returned to the classroom.

“Even though my career stalled for 17 years, when I did decide to go back to teaching in 1994, a door immediately opened for me at Paschal High School, which was a definite sign to me that teaching was where I needed to be,” she said.

“I have felt very blessed to be at Paschal and teaching the kids I have taught for the last 22 years,” Sikes said.

Sikes said she had a lot of favorite memories but the memory that stood out the most was when she had a student transfer into her AP U.S. History class from another Fort Worth high school.

“He came in with a failing grade of 65 from the first six weeks,” Sikes said. “Over the next successive six weeks, I worked with him on his study skills and he improved steadily every six weeks. In the six weeks, he took the national AP U.S. History exam and had a passing score of three, which ensured him six hours of college credit.”

Paschal High School Assistant Principal Ryan Hoyler said Sikes is one of Paschal’s teachers that truly care and often takes new teachers under her wing.

“Patti stands out in an arena of already great and caring educators,” Hoyler said. “This is exemplified by her dedication in the classroom as well as her loving leadership in her department. Patti is a driving force in teaching AP [U.S. History] for the past 20 years. She is a very respected member of the Fort Worth community.”

Candidates undergo a three-part evaluation process based on a written application and narrative, an interview session and a teaching demonstration before a panel of judges.

Each applicant was interviewed by the judges for 15 minutes and then presented a 15-minute teaching lesson, Sikes said.

“My lesson was on the photography of Dorothea Lange, who is most famous for her Migrant Mother photo from the Great Depression,” she said. “My presentation was a quick five-minute lecture on her and the history of why she was hired by the FDR administration to take pictures of New Deal agencies like the Resettlement Administration.”

Sikes gave the committee four Lange photographs for the judges to critique.

“Using a strategy I use with my students called HAPP-Y which stands for Historical Context, Audience, Purpose, Point of View and Y is this significant,” Sikes said.

The committee picked Sikes as the recipient of the Chair of Teaching Excellence in Humanities.

The teachers selected will hold the title for one year and receive a $5,000 award that can be used any way the teacher desires, said Hoyler.

Sikes said she doesn’t know what she will do with the money she was awarded.

“Maybe there is a bucket list trip in my near future!” Sikes said.