James Patterson Graduates
May's Commencement marked an exciting moment for graduates all across Texas State, but for two individuals the excitement transcended to honor as they were part of the first cohort of the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship recipients to graduate.
In fall 2013, Texas State University’s College of Education was selected by The Patterson Family Foundation as the recipient of several James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarships. Associate Dean for Teacher Education and Academic Affairs, Dr. Patrice Werner, was the chair for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction when news first came about the scholarships. “Dr. Trauth received a letter from James Patterson out of the blue, and it said he was impressed with our teacher education program and wanted to include us in the scholarship program. It was such a surprise and a great honor to be selected.” The James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship fully funds undergraduate and graduate students who are studying education and are committed to teaching careers.
In the first year of the scholarship, eight undergraduate freshmen who demonstrated academic talent and a passion for learning and teaching were selected; among them were Mathew Zuniga, Baleigh Whitman, Alexandra Alldredge, and Yolivette Vivas.
When the recipients were announced, Zuniga had mixed emotions. “I felt grateful and a little surprised that I had gotten it,” he shared. Fellow peer Whitman had a similar reaction. “Honestly, I felt really overwhelmed but so grateful.”
Fast forward three years, and the two are still filled with mixed emotions — but for different reasons.
“It feels surreal,” said Zuniga. “I have been going to school my entire life as a student, and now as a teacher it just feels insane. I am excited and anxious and scared at times, but the education program at Texas State has prepared me well, and despite my emotions I know I am ready.”
“At first, I felt like I knew I was good with kids and I liked teaching so [being an educator] seemed to be a good choice,” shared Whitman. “Once I got in the program, I realized that the classroom is where I am comfortable. I have a passion for learning, as well as helping children feel loved and successful. I’m so excited about the year to come. The past four years have flown by, but I have never felt readier to step into my role as an educator.”
Upon graduating, Zuniga has accepted a position at Del Valle Opportunity Center, where he will be teaching English III.
Whitman graduated with a bachelor of science in interdisciplinary studies, and a concentration of early childhood through 6th grade; she has accepted a position in Luling ISD as a 4th grade reading and writing teacher.
Given the opportunity to thank Mr. Patterson face-to-face, Zuniga and Whitman wouldn’t quite know how to express their immense gratitude.
“He may never know how much that scholarship helped me. … It was the first scholarship I had ever received,” shared Zuniga. “My confidence was boosted and I [no longer felt like] an anxious 18-year-old. I would like to thank him for his contributions to the future of education.”
“I would say thank you,” said Whitman. “I know it doesn’t quite embody a four-year degree, but it would be genuine gratitude for providing me with opportunities I wouldn’t have had without the scholarship.”
As of today, The Patterson Family Foundation funds the Teacher Education Scholarships in 22 institutions across the nation. Texas State University is the only university in Texas that receives funds for the James Patterson Teacher Education Scholarship and currently has two additional cohorts of recipients.