A Letter From The Editors: How Ms. Patton Impacted Our Lives


Artwork by Eyla Mitchell

After losing our beloved journalism advisor, Andrea Patton, last July after her battle with cancer, we wanted to reflect on the impacts she had on our lives. Ms. Patton was a teacher that touched the lives of her students and left a lasting impact on who we are.

Meira Fiber-Munro

Sitting in my backyard with my best friend, I inquired, “What’s the new English teacher like?” I didn’t know it then, but Ms. Patton would change my life. During the end of my time in treatment for disordered eating, I met all my second semester teachers via zoom just like the first semester, only this class was di- fferent. As tedious as four hours of online classes could be, Ms. Patton made learning about journalism fun and exciting. She encouraged the class to dive into issues we were passionate about, providing us with inspiration from her own experiences as well as from guest speakers and illustrators with extensive backgrounds in both writing and artistic expressions of journalism. On the last day of my sophomore year, she brought ice cream and we sat outside reading the articles we’d written. I couldn’t wait to return to her classroom again for my junior year.

As anticipated, walking into room 128 for Ms. Patton’s fourth period class was the best part of my day. She became my friend just as much as my teacher, and I started to collect recommendations for podcasts, books, movies, shows, and articles from her. She pushed me to be the best version of myself, and gave me the opportunity to hold my first leadership position. As unsure as I was about being the only junior editor, Ms. Patton assured me that no matter what, I be- longed in her classroom. My classmates were my close friends, and Ms. Patton’s influence continued through my involvement in GSA (gender sexuality alliance). She instilled the idea of queer joy in me and made our weekly meetings another space and time I looked forward to sharing with her. Nothing could have prepared us for what was to come.

I think the fact that she taught through all four stages of cancer points to how much she loved teaching journalism and her dedication to her students. Ms. Patton believed in everyone’s potential for success, which fueled my self worth when I needed it most.

Not only did Ms. Patton teach me about journalism, she also taught me how important it is to advocate for myself, and to always stay passionate about the things that matter most to me. Ms. Patton inspired me to continue loving jour- nalism and helped me share my drive for social justice and truth through my authentic voice. I hope to honor her legacy throughout the rest of my educatio- nal experiences and emulate the person she was in my adulthood.

So, back to my backyard on that sunny day in 2020, the new English teacher is going to get me through high school, and change my life for the better. I love and miss Ms. Patton beyond what words can express, and I hope I can make her proud.

Cate Latimer

Coming into a year of online school, the last thing I wanted was something brand- new. So, when I arrived in Ms. Patton’s Zoom room for journalism, I was wary. However, I quickly became fascinated by everything Ms. Patton taught us. She was constantly pushing us to have difficult conversations and think deeply about the words we were writing. I had never had a teacher so deeply passionate about the subject they taught.

She brought in guest speakers from illustrators making political zines to jour- nalists reporting on homelessness in Portland and challenged my understan- ding of journalism from the beginning.

After a few weeks, I was hooked. I quickly changed my class schedule to take journalism again the next year, eager to learn from Ms. Patton in any way pos- sible. Over the years, our relationship grew much stronger. She became the advisor for the writing club I had started, I learned from her each day in class, and she sparked discussions as we traded books.

At certain points, I wasn’t sure that journalism was for me. I often felt out of place and uninspired reporting only on certain subjects. Knowing this, she pus- hed me to explore the topics I was more curious about. When I didn’t believe in myself or my talent, Ms. Patton was always there to read my writing, offer me resources to grow, and truly support me.

Walking into Ms. Patton’s class each day felt like a sigh of relief. She made her class a welcoming environment where I could challenge myself and learn by doing genuine journalism. Whenever I had a crazy idea for a project, interview, or future plan she was always fast to support it, giving me everything she could to help me succeed.

Today, I continue to carry Ms. Patton’s positivity and teachings with me. She didn’t just teach me journalism, but a lifelong passion for truth and a belief in myself that I will keep with me always.

Zoe Toperosky

What started as a quest to fall in love with writing once again, forever changed my life. As a freshman amid the pandemic, I was lost — we all were. I wanted to redis- cover my love for writing in a non-english class format, so I took up journalism in the second semester of freshman year, and it forever changed my life.

At the beginning everything was online, so our classes were conducted via zoom. I dreaded every zoom meeting I had to be on. But this class was different, Ms. Patton lit up the zoom room in a way no other teacher could. We could all feel the distress that zoom presented, but it didn’t matter, Ms. Patton showed up every meeting with a smile and ready to teach us and impact our lives. After the first class, I told my parents, “this is a teacher unlike any other, she’s ama- zing.” And I have said that so many times since then.

Ms. Patton was the type of person that truly wanted to see everyone succeed, she believed in all of us. She believed in me. And at that time, I really needed someone to believe in me.

When we returned my sophomore year, in person, there were challenges and obstacles that we didn’t expect, but had to overcome. I don’t think I could have done it without Ms. Patton’s support and belief in me.

She changed the way I see and question the world and our society and for that I could never thank her enough. Ms. Patton taught me how to view the world’s biases and how to combat them with strength and compassion. With her help, I learned how to process through writing, and I learned how to use journalism as a way to learn, educate, and fill me with joy.

Writing is such a big part of my life, and it is because of Ms. Patton. She helped me fall in love with writing and to find my voice in journalism. Ms. Patton hel- ped me find my purpose, and she never gave up on me. In my work, I strive to make her proud and to honor the things she taught me.

Ms. Patton changed my life, and will forever shape the person I am. I will never forget her strength, passion, drive and belief in me.

Sierra Donis

Writing had always been a side hobby of mine, nothing I’d consider a passion, but something I wouldn’t consider irrelevant. Entering my high school years through a computer screen was something that not only left me mentally drained, but also unexcited. But when I met Ms. Patton, my view on everything changed. How a tea- cher can teach, and had, always felt linear to me, but she flipped the script.

Sure, I’ve had a couple gems when it comes to teachers, but Ms. Patton was un- like any other. She inspired me to write about things I enjoyed, not things that I was forced to write, and she guided me through the hell that high school can be.

She was always there to support me in my decisions, and always told me how powerful writing can actually be. To me, she represented hospitality, guidance, and a role model. Not only was she close to me, but especially to my friends who fell in love with her kindness and honesty.

When I first walked into room 128 for my first in-person journalism class, I was instantly consumed by a community of people who had passion for their craft, and the creativity to move millions. The most talented people I’ve ever met came from that class, and they inspired me to be a creator. Not only did they inspire me, but I also considered them my friends, my family, and a place that I felt comfortable to speak. This space, this classroom, was created by Ms. Patton, and I’ll never be able to thank her enough for that.

Understanding writing, journalism, and why we question was something that Ms. Patton originally brought into me life. We write for not only ourselves, but most especially others. To “shine the light of truth” upon things that we hold love or concern for. She taught me this in both the context of journalism, but also from a moral standpoint. We sometimes have to put ourselves out there– speak our mind per say–which can be uncomfortable, but it will always be ne- cessary. In The Headlight, we do this through journalism, and Ms. Patton stood by that moral.

Crazy class-opening conversations about music, color and texture of the day, lectures about movies/media (especially Ratatouille for some reason), the stu- dent art board (proud founder, by the way), and one-on-one conversations with Ms. Patton about my future was something I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for. She always understood my struggles, and showed me how to overcome them. Not only did she guide me, but the amazing and talented people I’ve met through this program who inspire greatness through writing.

Ms. Patton’s strength and kindness helped me not only find myself through writing/journalism, but also made me see that high school can be a place where you can express yourself and meet amazing people.