Teacher Inspired: A tribute to Pat Hadley

August 26, 2013

Pat Hadley on top of the world


A couple of days gone, but the sadness and gravity of the news lingers.  An amazing person… woman, teacher, artist, wife, friend, mentor, climber, biker, hiker… died too soon.

News stories, emails, Facebook posts scream the news over and over. Tributes, kind words, and grief surround the empty reality that as a new school year begins, someone who was supposed to be in her classroom this week, will not be there.  Now it is memories that keep Pat in our hearts.

Pat and I started at Valencia High School the same year. We experienced personnel changes, modernizations, good years and tough years.  Throughout changes, Pat was a constant. Constant optimism, constant enthusiasm, constant joy.

Adjectives that describe her flow easily: vibrant, kind, adventurous, passionate, loving, creative.  One key description is that she was an outstanding teacher! She earned the respect of students and colleagues and operated with an ethic of care.  Reading the kind words of my colleagues and of Pat’s former students demonstrate over and over the impact… the impression she leaves in our hearts and minds.

She made people better. Better artists, runners, and students.  She saw potential in people even when they did not see it in themselves and she worked to bring it out.  She wanted students to believe in themselves as much as she believed in them. I hope those students who worked with her continue in her honor. Desire better, keep running, push into possibility.

I have some favorite memories.  One is a Halloween costume (probably ten years ago), when she showed up at the faculty lunch with cereal box tops attached to her clothes.  “I’m a cereal killer!” she exclaimed.

We shared a love of chocolate.  We used to compete for the dark chocolate on the principal’s desk.  We both sifted through the treats to find our favorites and if they were gone we knew the other showed up first.

At department chair meetings, our administrators kindly placed chocolate in the middle of the table.  Pat would place her empty wrappers in front of me and make comments about how much chocolate I needed to get through the meetings.  Her eyes twinkled as we pushed those wrappers back and forth between us.

She lived around the corner from me. Every year Pat and I would catch up at an event and say to each other, “We need to get together with a good bottle of wine!”   We never did.

Numerous memories and stories are being told this week. As we all process the loss of a person we loved and respected, I am one of many people weighted by sadness.

Now the consummate teacher is teaching us to deal with life and death.  What are the lessons learned?

The school year still begins in a week. The loss is real and devastating. No doubt there will be more tears, tributes and memories on a common theme: Pat lived inspired.

We love her and we miss her.

Teacher Inspired

Teacher Inspired


When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.  ~Kahlil Gibran


Why I’m a Bad Ass Teacher…

August 13, 2013


Offended by my profanity?  Truly… I’m sorry.  But certain words have a power that simply captures an essence.  In this case, badass works.  I’m a badass teacher.

How do you define ‘bad ass?”  Need help?  There are plenty of sources to define it for you.  Check Urban Dictionary .  Or the Oxford Dictionary

Personally, I think Navy Seals are badass.  I think we see badass literary characters (Beowulf, Katniss), badass movie characters (Trinity, Batman), badass business successes (Branson, Oprah) and badass activists (MLK, Jr., OWS) that provide a glimpse into what is possible if we are willing to do something.

Bad Ass Teacher?  Sounds a bit oxymoronic.  Not according to a fast growing group of teachers linked together by social media with a clear message: Teachers Need To Talk!

Created by Priscilla Sanstead, a parent activist in Oklahoma, Dr. Mark Naisson, an African American Studies professor at Fordham University in New York and Marla Kilfoye, a teacher and parent activist from Long Island, Bad Ass Teacher’s (BAT’s) stated mission is:

To give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for real teaching and learning.

The Facebook group grew to 24,800 members in less than two months.  There is a Twitter feed and a large number of teachers who blog and re-post about BAT.  Mainstream media nodded at the group with articles on Yahoo  and  the Washington Post.  Even Diane Ravitch addressed the group: on her blog and directly.

I joined the group. I do not agree with every part of the manifesto and every teacher who posts. I enjoy this group because they are not afraid to have the conversation.  I am excited to see what happens next.

Grassroots activism from an unlikely group… a group of teachers.  But this group of teachers recognizes that standing together, raising your voices and fighting for change is important.

To be considered badass, you have to change your attitude.

I think I am (a little) badass.

  • I recognize my voice and I am willing to have the difficult conversations about education and educational policy.  It is time to turn dialogue into action.  I want to be in the conversation.
  • I do what I do each day and after 25 years still love it!  High school teacher, three preps, variety of students, some challenging colleagues, and new roles.  I want to be involved because I want quality education for my children and students.
  • I am willing to improve, learn new technology, and change my lessons to best meet the needs of my students.  Can’t we always get better?
  • I stay involved and participate on multiple levels including my site, my district, and my state.  Teachers need to be involved.  We need to be seen, heard, and active.

 What to be Bad Ass?  Here is a starting point:

  • Say what you mean, mean it and follow through.  Don’t we want this from our administration, colleagues, students and ourselves?
  • Ask questions, both of your administration, your colleagues… and most importantly… of yourself.
  • Assert yourself.  When something is wrong or can be made better, do not wait for someone else to take care it. Jump in and ACT!

Bottom line: Bad Ass teachers have an attitude and behavior that is admirable.  On the spectrum of badass, I’m still defining where I fall… but I am on the spectrum.   For me, this is not a revolution but hopefully a revelation that teachers have a voice, teachers know some things, and teachers are willing to share.

Be Bad Ass!