Joy Patton Renaissance High

Joy Patton teaches English and theater at Renaissance High School.

A Renaissance High School teacher has been named the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s 2019-20 Teacher of the Year, as announced recently by the Nashville nonprofit.

Joy Patton, who teaches English and theater at the Williamson County Schools district’s high school, was selected based on her standards of excellence in using the arts to inspire her students, according to a press release from TPAC.

Despite TPAC and WCS being closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts organization presented Patton with the award via video with help from Renaissance High Principal Brian Bass and Rob McNeilly, president of Tennessee Division for Synovus Bank, which sponsors the award.

"Joy challenges her students to be themselves,” McNeilly said, “ending each of her classes with the same three words — ‘your words matter.’ Her standards of excellence in using the arts to inspire her students shine not only in her 11th and 12 grade English classes, but also in her roles as head of her school’s theater department and coordinator of its innovation lab."

Now in its 26th year, TPAC’s Teacher of the Year Award honors excellence in arts education and includes a $1,000 grant for the recipient’s school, made possible by Synovus Bank.

Patton brings her students to performances on TPAC’s Season for Young People as often as she can, occasionally twice in the same school year. For many of her students, it’s the first time they experience a live performance.

“Sometimes kids just need to get out of the building,” Patton said. “Everyone should get to experience the performing arts, especially when classic works of literature come off the page and into real life.”

Patton has escorted students to performances of “1984,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Hamlet,” “Inherit the Wind” and “The Crucible” in recent years.

Though Patton teaches English and theater, she also worked with the school’s Freshmen Academy to bring the freshman class to see “The Code,” a play by the Vancouver-based Green Thumb Theatre that addresses the issue of cyber-bullying in schools.

Patton then challenged her students to write their own scenes addressing social issues they see at school and perform them for the freshman class.

In addition to starting the school’s chapter of the International Thespian Society (serving as Troupe Director), coordinating the school’s Innovation Lab, and acting as producer and technical director for the Moonlight Players, the after-school theatre program, Patton makes time for her own professional development.

Part of that is participating in TPAC workshops.

“For me, teaching is a creative outlet, and the workshops challenge me to keep creating and keep innovating,” Patton said. “It keeps me from getting stuck in the same pattern and gives me the courage to try new approaches.”

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