Tweet Jean Payne retired 20 years ago from her job as an Orange County schoolteacher. These days, the 83-year-old tries her best to stay active and enjoys her free time with her energetic dog. “You’d think after 30 years of teaching autistic children, I could teach a dog not to jump. It’s a harder job,” Payne said. As Payne describes […]
Most of us are able to recall a special educator in either our children’s or our own lives who left an indelible imprint. Patti Gordon is one of those special people, someone who has felt a calling to make a difference in the lives of children.
In February, Orange County Public Schools recognized Gordon for her dedication to children by naming her OCPS School Counselor of the Year.
With a long history in education, Gordon earned this prestigious award for her work at Millennia Elementary, where she currently works.
Of her work at Millennia, Gordon says, “There are 18 countries represented here, 42 different languages spoken, and over 30 homeless families. The people are ‘red and yellow, black and white’ and ‘they are precious in His sight’! There is something special at Millennia Elementary and in MANY public schools in College Park, Orlando, and throughout the country of which I am blessed to be a part of. There is kindness, love, acceptance, respect, hope, and compassion. There is hope for a brighter tomorrow and a desire to help make the world a better place.”
One of the biggest rewards of her job, says Gordon, is “having an office where children are free and welcome to come and share the feelings, concern, and problems happening in their young lives.”
Gordon has been honored that so many College Park residents and organizations have answered her calls for help on behalf of some of her students and their families who struggle.
“As a Christian, I strive to be the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ every day of my life and every day at my job. It is rewarding to be in a ‘mission field’ right here in Orlando where I know I’ve been called to do just that. It is also rewarding to be able to share resources with children and families who deserve so much, yet who have so little. Many of these resources come from some of our very own College Park families and local businesses who so graciously give to our Millennia families,” she said.
Dr. Bruce Gordy and his staff donate toothbrushes and toothpaste; Stephanie Bowman at One Heart for Women and Children provides clothing and food; Robert Stuart at the Christian Service Center provides weekly donations of food and hygiene products through the Love Pantry; and many friends in the neighborhood responded to Gordon’s plea on Facebook for Christmas gifts for 40 families in need.
And these are just a few of the ways College Park has helped Gordon’s students.
When asked about the biggest challenges facing the children she works with, Gordon lamented that for some of her students, “the biggest challenge for them is having a good night’s sleep in spite of the crowded bed and/or living area they share with family members whether it be in a small hotel room, an apartment or a rental home. It might be the challenge of finding clean clothes and shoes that fit to wear to school the next day. Another challenge some of my students face is getting to school on time by themselves because their parents work two or three jobs and aren’t home to wake them up in the morning, feed them breakfast, and remind them to brush their teeth. It continues to amaze me how these young students are so self-sufficient and capable of surviving in these conditions.”
Prior to working at Millennia Elementary, Gordon taught gifted education at Princeton Elementary for 12 years. She was a paraprofessional at Lake Silver Elementary for a special needs student, and she taught preschool for two years, third grade for seven years and fifth grade for two. From 1984 to1987 she was a school counselor at Lake Highland Preparatory School.
When Gordon accepted the job at Millennia, a Title I school located in southwest Orlando, she knew the school would be a tremendous change from where she had worked for most of her career, but she was up for the challenge. “I accepted the job offer with great excitement and anticipation,” she said.
On being named School Counselor of the Year, Gordon said, “It is an incredible honor to have won this award and to be acknowledged for my hard work and dedication to the well-being of children and adults at Millennia Elementary and to fellow school counselors in OCPS. To be recognized for working in a profession that I thoroughly enjoy and look forward to going to work every day is absolutely fantastic! I never imagined that I would receive such an honor and it is truly a highlight of my career. None of this would be possible without the strength and guidance I receive from my Lord each and every day. I give Him all the glory! Additionally, I could not successfully do this job without the support of my amazing husband, Bill, and my three wonderful children, Hannah, Mac, and Luke.”
Gordon concluded, “There is a real need for volunteers/mentors who are willing to give any amount of time to assist a teacher or a student, or to donate one bag of groceries, one pair of clean new socks or underwear, or one new backpack. If there is anyone reading this article who would like to participate in some small way, you would be greatly appreciated. Come join our mission field and be blessed.”