Patrizia Brody was emerging from a bitter divorce preceded by a difficult marriage without alimony or child support to provide for her two children who were in 7th and 12th grades at the time. Facing a path of uncertainty, Brody, a parent volunteer-turned resident guest teacher at North Verdemont Elementary School in San Bernardino, was encouraged by Principal Dan Durst and educators Dr. Susan Barkdoll, Danielle Crawford and others to pursue her teaching credential.
“Dan Durst opened up opportunities for me, telling me ‘you’re great at teaching kids how to read,’ motivating me to become a teacher,” Brody, who led the K-2nd grade reading intervention program at the time, said. “When I failed the CSET Dan told me, ‘Now you know what’s on the test.’”
Brody entered the Learning and Teaching program at the University of Redlands in February of 2016 and graduated with a teaching credential and master’s degree in education in December of 2017 while working full time and raising two honor-roll children.
The journey was peppered with challenges and setbacks. Brody recalled nights sitting in bed with her computer overwhelmed in tears while taking the Teacher Proficiency Assessments; Crawford, who Brody considers her academic mentor, was a source of encouragement and perspective.
“I told myself that I have to do this, I don’t have a choice,” she shared about those stressful episodes. “If I sink I have two kids that will drown with me; I don’t have the luxury of failing.”
Her children, Julia who’s currently in college and Joss, who will be a senior in high school, were part of her journey in providing tech support, helping her submit course work electronically.
“When my son complains about class, my daughter would tell him, ‘Come on, get over it, if mom could get a master’s degree without writing an email, you can do this,’” Brody shared with amusement.
Wrapping up her third year as a Kindergarten teacher at North Verdemont, Brody is surrounded by a community whose unwavering support helped her get a fresh start on life.
“Patrizia has proven that public educators are some of the most flexible people you’ll ever meet, she’s worn many hats,” exclaimed Durst, who will be retiring this Thursday after a 30-year career. “She has kept her tenacity to achieve her goals along the way – she’s a teacher of teachers.”
Brody is one of two teachers from the San Bernardino City Unified School District selected for the State Literacy Needs Assessment and is traveling to Sacramento this month. The group is tasked with providing input on the state literacy needs assessment, analyzing assessment results, and helping guide literacy instruction across California public schools.
“My success doesn’t come from me, my success comes from where I am, a team effort.” Brody acknowledged she honed math skills from Rhonda Hill, science from Dr. Barkdoll, how to navigate the credential program from Crawford, and how to be successful from Durst. “I’m their creation. They have no idea how indebted I am to them.”
Brody shares a room with Michael Peterson, to whom she attributes making her a better teacher everyday.
“My students’ test scores are high because Michael shares his knowledge, giving me 20 years of wisdom and insight to bring me to his level,” Brody indicated. “Kindergarten is being modeled for me everyday by teaching perfection.”
Brody’s kinder students are “Science Buddies” with Dr. Barkdoll’s 3rd graders for study sessions in the school garden and koi pond. Brody planted trees in memory of her grandfather, an immigrant from Italy from whom she inherited the love of horticulture; the koi pond was inspired by her stepfather’s passion for koi.
“Patrizia makes learning come alive through real world experiences at our environmental education school. Students embrace her zest for the natural world that was handed down from her family lineage. It is an honor and privilege to know her,” remarked Dr. Barkdoll. “I work for a district that’s not only making hope happen for students, but they took this 50-year-old woman and made hope happen,” Brody declared emotionally. “I wake up and go to a job I love – I never knew life could be so good.”