Andrea Patton: A Queer Success Story


Courtesy of Leia Harper

Meira Fiber-Munro (she/they), Editor

Andrea Patton; beloved former co-advisor of GSA (Gender Sexuality Alliance), English teacher, and journalism advisor who understood the necessity of spaces where discussions about gender identity and sexual orientation are encouraged and connections between lgbtqia+ community members are made.

Current student leaders of GSA, Margot Pullen (she/her) and Eyla Mitchell (she/ they), reflected on their time in the club with her, as well as her impact on their high school experiences. “When I think about Ms. Patton’s impact on GSA, the Covid year really sticks out,” Pullen said, “We were entirely on Zoom and there were five of us that consistently showed up including the advisors. The most people we ever had was eight.” Pullen said, emphasizing that despite the minimal participa- tion, Ms. Patton was dedicated to creating the opportunity for all school community members to engage in GSA.

“Being isolated made me realize how important that time was for me,” Pullen continued. “Even on Zoom, it meant so much that Ms. Patton understood how impor- tant GSA was. She could’ve said that meetings would resume once we can be in person again, but instead she consistently provided the opportunity to connect which made me feel like I mattered for her to hold that space. It was the most im- portant hour of my week, and I depended on it when I was going through a rough time.”

“Ms. Patton saw that we couldn’t represent the entire queer school community with one student leader perspective. We needed different viewpoints and ex- periences in order to easily pivot to what our community needs and plan things effectively. So, essentially, the collaborative leadership plan we use in GSA was Ms. Patton’s brainchild.”

Current co-advisor Ms. Joy Root, an English and Italian teacher here at Ida B. Wells, remembers Ms. Patton as the organizational brain of the club, as well as a “bright light in the school community.”

Pullen related to this sentiment. “She brought the joy. She would show up with her beret and her dogs and was there to help us get through a really rough time and navigate finding

acceptance in both home and school environments. It makesme hopeful for the future to see an adult being visibly queer and out and living their life so joyfully, and that aspect of who she was made it so gut wrenchingly awful to see that come to an end.”

Mitchell continues on the importance of having a role model of a “queer success story” to look up to, “She was one of the first queer adults that was out and in a relationship and talked about it, and held a job who we had personal connections with. She was always there. She had such a huge impact on the school community in her two years teaching at IBW. She never even had a full year. I wonder what she would have done if she’d had more time.”

Root calls community members to action, remembering Patton’s drive for equity. “She was fiery and persistent in her pursuit of justice, and was able to keep that righteous anger where it belonged but do it in a joyful, loving, and beautiful way. She was always looking for ways to make a concrete difference in our community. We have a responsibility to seek justice in the ways that she sought justice. She was fundamental to making the name shift to the Headlight, and shining light on in- justices throughout our school community, getting into good trouble as John Lewis would say. She was very good at that. That is the legacy she leaves.”

Pullen said that “She inspired me to share the meaning that GSA has to me with future students. She didn’t get to do all that she should have. Because there are so many younger club members this year, we had a meeting where we talked about who Ms. Patton was and what she meant to this club. We need to remember where we came from because that informs where we’re going.”