Linda Patton-Eakin has taught at St. Theresa School, Palm Desert, for 24 years. She has been a teacher for 45 years, as she taught at a public school and a non-Catholic private school before coming to St. Theresa. She currently teaches fifth through eighth grade social studies but has previously taught middle school and high school as well, most often teaching English Language Arts.
As part of our series on Catholic School teachers in the Diocese, Patton-Eakin sat down with the BYTE to tell us a little about herself and her life as a teacher at St. Theresa.
BYTE: What drew you to teaching at the start of your career? What made you want to consider it and then what made you stay with it all these years; what do you love about it?
Patton-Eakin: Well, I realized as a young woman that I really enjoyed working with children. And teaching has just been my passion. There’s a wonderful quote: “If you find your passion, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And that’s what teaching has been for me.
BYTE: Is there a difference you’ve found in public versus private schools, or Catholic versus non-Catholic schools? What do you like about St. Theresa being a Catholic school?
Patton-Eakin: I like the fact that we want to help the children to grow spiritually. And the fact that you can pray in the classroom and attend Mass, and I do a lot of community service projects here that I’ve enjoyed over the years.
BYTE: Could you tell me a little about these community service projects?
Patton-Eakin: One I do with the sixth graders is called Hug the Baby and it’s a church ministry led by a former St. Theresa parent. Each month, kids put together baskets with baby supplies. And then some are sent to Desert Regional Medical Center, some are sent down the valley for low income families.
We also visit a rest home regularly called Premier Care, and at Christmas time, the students do a Christmas musical for the residents. At Easter time we do the living portraits of the cross, and then other times we’ll go in and maybe help to lead activities like their weekly bingo game.
We also do some special Masses. We do a Veterans Day Mass where the students write cards to the veterans thanking them for their service. They usher at the Mass and then when the veterans are recognized they pass out their cards. And then we work with the Knights of Columbus, they do a special luncheon for the veterans that the students helped serve at following the Mass.
We do a Goldenweds Mass around Valentine’s Day where we honor those people married 50 years or more and we serve cake and coffee to them after the Mass. We participate with the altar society in a May crowning event on Mother’s Day. We always do a Christmas project and for many years we’ve adopted a family, and the students draw out gifts to buy or food supplies for the family.
I also run a peer tutoring project here at school where the sixth, seventh and eighth graders tutor the younger students two afternoons a week.
And this year, I’ve got a new project for the veterans. Prior to COVID, for about 17 years, we would make homemade cookies each week and send them up to the base at Twentynine Palms to the Catholic church up there to distribute. So it’s always had me very interested in our veterans, and the Library of Congress has a veterans project where they’d like young people to interview veterans, take pictures of any memorabilia the veteran might bring to the interview, and then send it to the Library of Congress to be part of their permanent record. Normally, the students have to be 15 years old to conduct the interviews, but I got special permission from the library to have my eighth graders do that this year. So we are going to start that in the fall.
BYTE: Wow, that’s pretty special. Generally speaking, what would you say is the importance of having the kids do these kinds of service projects? Do you see the impact on the kids?
Patton-Eakin: Yes, I think it helps them to grow spiritually, and to realize the importance of service in their faith life. When anyone does something to help other people, on the one hand, you’re helping them; on the other hand, it makes you feel good, knowing that you’ve contributed to helping someone else. So it’s generally a very positive experience for them.
BYTE: What would you say your students have taught you or given you, just on a personal level?
Patton-Eakin: I would say the students and the families here have been wonderful the whole time I’ve been here. They have been very supportive. Any project I throw out, they generally jump on board and are willing to help and I think it’s allowed me to do more things in my career. And it’s helped me to grow as a person in the ways we want children to grow, whether it’s spiritually, academically or socially.
BYTE: Could you tell us a little about yourself? What you like to do in your free time? And do you have a favorite saint or Bible verse?
Patton-Eakin: I was married to my first husband for nearly 30 years until he passed away. And last November, I remarried. So it’s been sort of a honeymoon period for me this year.
Outside of school, I love to travel. I like to read. I’m active at our local American Legion. I lead a Bible study here at St. Theresa. And prior to COVID, I used to teach citizenship classes at St. Theresa, and I’m hoping we can get that started again. My favorite Bible verse would be the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated.
BYTE: All right. Do you have anything else you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about, any any final comments?
Patton-Eakin: Well, I think one thing that has allowed me to do so many of these different projects have been the support and the positive attitude of my students, their parents’ continued support and the staff support on campus, and of course, always the principals. So, I’m just very happy to be part of the St. Theresa school family.