For Former Computer Programmer, New Life At Prince Tech
Patricia Mann Named State Technical High School System's 2013 Teacher of the Year
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
June 26, 2013
HARTFORD — Early in her adult life, Patricia Mann worked as a programmer at The Hartford for 14 years.
The insurer offered her the job right out of South Carolina State University with a computer science degree, and she loved it.
"I was comfortable with what I did," Mann said Wednesday.
But Mann, 48, also is a people person — a nurturing woman with a bright smile and the organizational skills of an event planner. For years, she was curious about the teaching profession, although "when you're in your own career, you don't have much time to explore," she said.
Mann found the time. After becoming a teacher in 2000, Mann is now the Connecticut Technical High School System's 2013 Teacher of the Year.
A central office committee chose Mann, an instructor at A.I. Prince Technical High School in Hartford, out of 16 finalists who were the respective teachers of the year at technical high schools across the state, school officials said this week.
Mann is head of Prince Tech's Information Systems Technology department, where students learn trades such as computer programming, networking, hardware, web design, graphics and desktop publishing. Aside from being a classroom teacher, Principal William Chaffin said, Mann is involved in professional development, staff mentoring and school committees. She organized last week's graduation.
For five years, Mann was even the school's cheerleading coach.
"The bottom line, the most important thing is the students love her," Chaffin said. "They know she has high expectations for them ... But at the same time, she's supportive and scaffolds things so they can reach those standards."
Mann manages her classroom like a professional office. There are casual Fridays and independent projects for seniors, who must meet their deadlines and schedule an appointment to meet with Mann if problems arise. Mann also teaches Adobe software, such as Photoshop, to a group of juniors who are now on summer break.
When students have personal issues, Mann hears them out.
"The kids are great," Mann said. "They just need boundaries and structure ... I try to help them navigate their lives and make better choices."
A few students have slipped up and called her "Mom."
At home in Bloomfield, she and her husband, Hartford firefighter Henry Mann, are foster parents to a 13-year-old boy who has lived with them for four years. The Manns have fostered six children over the past dozen years. "It's tough but it's worth it," Patricia Mann said.
Mann also loves home improvement, motorcycles and "fast cars."
"If I'm in a swimming pool, I don't dip my toes in," she said. "I jump in."
Mann believes that sense of aggressiveness has helped her career. The New York native arrived in Connecticut more than two decades ago after graduating from college in South Carolina. While at The Hartford, she took advantage of a company program that subsidized tuition for employees who wanted to further their education.
"Something deep inside of me kept saying, 'Go and get your master's in education,'" Mann recalled. She enrolled in Cambridge College in Massachusetts, where she drove after work for classes. Mann graduated with that master's degree in 1996, a year and a half after she started.
After the master's program, Mann continued to work at The Hartford. Then one day, she said, she opened the newspaper and saw an ad for a teaching seminar in Windsor. She attended in 1999 and made a few connections with school systems.
The following year, in October 2000, Mann joined the staff at Prince Tech.
The first time she walked into a classroom, Mann said, "I knew this was it ... This is who I am. This is my purpose ... It was like everything was lined up and it was meant to be."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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