As a teacher and later a principal, Patrice “Pattie” Buchanan never missed an opportunity to instill in her students a love for reading.
She organized book fairs, gave out “birthday books” to students and always promoted “I love to Read Month.”
“She knew that instilling a love of reading was a hook for student learning,” friend and former colleague Karen Fredricks said, describing how Buchanan used to organize “teddy bear picnics” relating to books her students read. “In other words, Pattie made books come alive.”
As a tribute to Buchanan, who died earlier this year, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School is proposing to name its library in honor of her.
“Naming our library in honor of Patrice Buchanan would be a beautiful memorial to a dedicated and beautiful woman, who knew that reading opened up the world to our children,” Fredricks said.
The renaming effort is spearheaded by Alpha Delta Kappa, an organization for female educators to which Buchanan belonged. In accordance with the Christina School District’s policy for naming facilities, the group has obtained more than 100 signatures on a petition in favor of the effort, as well as letters of support from the principal, school staff members and local elected officials. After a period of public comment, the school board will vote on the proposal later this year.
Buchanan’s career began in 1972 as a home economics teacher at Conrad High School, and after taking a few years off to raise her own children, she later spent 25 years as an educator in the Christina School District.
Her work in Christina came first as a parent and active PTA member, and she later joined the district as a substitute teacher and later a full-time kindergarten teacher at Cobbs Elementary School, which is now Gauger-Cobbs Middle School. In 1994, she was named Delaware Teacher of the Year
She later transferred to Marshall as a kindergarten teacher. After a stint as an administrator in the district office, she returned to Marshall as assistant principal and then principal. She served in that role until retiring in 2011.
Even then, she didn’t stop encouraging Marshall students to read, often returning to the school as a guest reader, current Principal Amy Selheimer said.
“Pattie enjoyed teaching and reading to students – something that will remain here as a focus at Marshall,” Selheimer said. “There is no better way to remember Pattie than to name our library in her honor.”
Beyond her duties as an educator, she also volunteered with the Girl Scouts, counseled women in prison and participated in other volunteer projects, friend and former colleague Susan Kelley Timpson said.
“While I knew that anyone who knew Pattie will never forget her, it is fitting that the library be named for her so that students in the future will see her name and hopefully be told about this great lady, Timpson said. “She was a champion of education and children. She was a force that will live on at Thurgood Marshall Elementary.”
Claudia Martin, another friend and former colleague, said Buchanan’s “love for people and laughter was a part of her character.” She described how Buchanan would pay for students to attend events they couldn’t afford and noted that she held twice-yearly parties at her home for the school’s staff.
“I would always tell her, ‘As you went from a volunteer to administrator, nothing changed by your status. You are still that caring and loving person I met 30 years ago,’” Martin said.