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Meet Marilyn Patton, A Distinguished Educator

Photo of Marilyn PattonHow does a Distinguished Educator approach her work? For English instructor Marilyn Patton, it's through new--and ancient--teaching methods.

"I follow the precepts of Aristotle and teach our students that three factors are essential for persuasion," she wrote in an e-mail, citing the forms of rhetoric: ethos, pathos and logos. "Those three factors guide me every day in every class. I establish my credibility by mirroring to my students the behaviors and attitudes which I expect of them (ethos). I use materials with some emotional content and hope to teach in ways that will reach the students' hearts (pathos). I attempt to teach in logical sequences, so that new learning builds on ideas and facts that have already been assimilated; I try to excite the students' minds and awaken their desire for the truth (logos)."

In Patton's courses, these classical concepts join with those that "teach the whole student--engaging body, mind and heart through in-class work in which kinesthetic learning, music, visuals, online work and collaborative learning enhance the student's experience."

Wrote one of her student nominators: "Mrs. Patton has really changed my life, for the better. She has made me break out of my shell and blossom into a creative butterfly. She has given me a sense of empowerment over hard times, both in writing and in life...because of Mrs. Patton, I not only have dreams but now I know that I can make them into reality."

"She has opened my eyes to paths that I never thought about crossing," the student continued. "Never did I want to be an English teacher, but the more I think about it and the more time I watch her in her element, I want to change my major."

English instruction may be Patton's element--when asked for her favorite quote, she cited a passage from Moby Dick--but her teaching has spanned both arts and sciences. She taught math and chemistry before studying literature at UC Santa Cruz, where she earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in the field. She also holds a B.A. in English from Stanford University. She has taught at De Anza for more than 16 years, participating on a variety of committees, currently including the Distance Learning Committee within the English department and the collegewide Facilities Committee. She served as department chair for three years.

Patton is also active in her Santa Cruz community. "I agree with President Brian Murphy about the importance of practicing what we preach in terms of civic involvement," she said. "I actively participate in local politics and have worked for 10 years leading an organization called the Alliance for Children, which works to inspire and assist extremely at-risk teens and to buy and distribute about 550 coats each year to Santa Cruz County children in need (Coats for Kids)."

Patton cites students and her fellow instructors as highlights of teaching at De Anza. "In every class, there are students who amaze and humble me. I could name dozens who have taught me more than I taught them. I value the wonderful collegiality and devotion to teaching within the Language Arts Division."

She said she is "surprised, delighted and grateful" to be selected to receive the Distinguished Educator award. "I must say, however, that every day I work with and observe great teachers here at De Anza--teachers who definitely deserve this award more than I do."

According to Vice President of Instruction Judy Miner, "The recurring theme in commendations for Marilyn is her commitment to student learning and the consequent individualized attention to student needs. The result is not only development of reading, writing and critical thinking skills but life changing empowerment of students to see themselves in ways they never could have imagined."

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Contact: Olga Evert
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Last Updated: 9/30/08