Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Patricia Carlin who was recently honored with the 2023 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. [You can watch a short clip of this year’s Champ event here.]
For over 40 years, Patricia Carlin, an educator, counselor, and social worker, has been an advocate in the Kalamazoo Public Schools and throughout the community. As an educator and counselor, Patricia has generously shared her gift for nurturing collaborations and helping students reintegrate into the school setting. While at Kalamazoo Central for almost twenty years, she also took on the role of staff advisor for the school’s Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA) that aims to create a safe, welcoming, and accepting school environment for all youth, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since her retirement in 2014, Patricia continues to be involved in schools, supporting students and teachers in a variety of ways, including academic achievement and life issues. She also continues her involvement with GSA groups that promote a safe and welcoming environment for all students. In addition to being an active member of the Kalamazoo Public Schools Equity Task Force and Design Team, she has a long history of supporting various community organizations and initiatives, such as Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, Partners in Dance at Western Michigan University, OutFront Kalamazoo, Bring a Therapy Dog to School with Dr. Angie Moe, and the “Heartbeat” writing program affiliated with Kalamazoo College’s Civic Engagement and Service-Learning.
Alright, Patricia: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
At CIS, we see you as an educator, a teacher, a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader. How do you see yourself? More as an educator? Or perhaps a counselor who also happens to be a teacher?
My first job was teaching in an elementary school. And I’ve taught middle school in Battle Creek, high school at Kalamazoo Central, and at the college level at KVCC and Western Michigan University. And because I’m also a counselor, the combination of that—the blend of those two professions—was very helpful. It helped with keeping students focused on their work while supporting them in successfully retuning to the classroom. The whole thing about restorative work is that you restore the relationship. [Interested in learning more about restorative practices in schools? This website offers a good overview.]
One thing I’ve learned along the way is that people want to be seen. All students want to be seen and heard and they want to have a relationship in their learning. Learning is deeper and more profound when you have a relationship. And it’s important that learning goes both way … I’m grateful to every student I’ve ever known. They have been my teachers. I learn from everybody. I feel I’m a learner more than a teacher.
Okay, we’ll put life-long learner at the top of the list! We were also wondering, since retiring in 2014, what does “retirement” look like for you?
When I retired, I continued to remain involved with the schools. I was invited to do so by Mr. [William “Mitch”] Hawkins. I started at Spring Valley [Center for Exploration] and then Northeastern Elementary School doing some of the same things I had been doing before, but now with a younger group of students. I’d work with students, helping them with their reading and living skills.
You have a long history of giving your time and talents not only throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools but throughout our community. Where does your passion for giving back come from?
That’s hard to say as I’ve been influenced by a number of factors. I grew up in Detroit. And I’m so grateful that I grew up in Detroit. It was during so much change. I saw the changes and the resistance and admired the civil rights leaders of the time.
Also, when I was seven and in second grade, I experienced an early hospitalization and surgery and somehow, I survived. That helped me realize early on that you can’t just wait for your life to happen. You need to do something with it.
I’ve also been at the receiving end, the beneficiary of many people’s kindness. I’ve had some wonderful teachers along the way as well as fabulous female mentors in high school and that made me want to be a good mentor. I’m not looking for awards; I just want to give back.
You serve on Kalamazoo Public Schools Equity Task Force and Design Team. How is that going?
There is important work in process and we know that it is essential that we listen to student voices. It’s really important to center students’ voices in what we do. It’s a work in process and aligns with my belief of placing students at the center.
What are you currently reading?
I have a number of books going right now. Some of the books I’ve recently read are A Thousand Graces by Karen Hill Anton, A Death on W Street by Andy Kroll, A Book of Days by Patti Smith, and The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson.
What is your favorite word, phrase, or quote right now?
I have quite a few! One is Emily Dickinson’s “Not knowing when the Dawn will come, I open every door.”
Another of my favorites is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” I try and think of that often and I’ve had that quote up in the classroom. It’s saying, “Today is going to be a good day for me and today is going to be a good day for you. And I’m so glad you’re here. And kids respond to that. “You’re glad I’m here?” they’ll ask. “Yes, of course,” I tell them.
And another education quote I like is “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been one of your caring adult?
There are many family, friends, and coworkers I am grateful for, but the surprising gift has been seeing my son [Nicholas Carlin-Voigt] become a caring adult to his family, me, and the students he works with. I admire him. I would be lying if I didn’t say I admired him.
Thank you, Patricia, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.