The Ledger | by Kimberly C. Moore | April 8, 2021
LAKELAND — Every day when, 7-year-old Mariyah Davis walks into Demeteria Patterson’s second-grade classroom at Dr. N.E. Roberts Elementary School in North Lakeland, the little girl greets her teacher with “a big old smile and ‘Good morning!’”
“How could you not have a good day when you’re greeted with a big smile and a good morning?” Patterson asked during a phone interview with The Ledger.
But it’s what has gone unspoken this school year that has Mariyah’s mother astonished and moved with gratitude for her daughter’s teacher – and has Patterson thankful for such a kind student. It’s not something found on a standardized tests or within the lines of scores or school grades.
“Every day my baby writes to her teacher in her agenda and tells her she loves her, and every day Ms. Patterson writes her back,” Mariyah’s mother, Brandy Lowe, wrote to Polk County Public Schools, sharing photos of the love notes. “I know they’re busy and there is always so much going on, but she always takes the time, and that means so much to Mariyah.”
Patterson uses the agendas every day to make sure students know what their homework assignments are and to let parents know what kind of day their child had using a number system. Six means they had a great day, while two means they need to think about their behavior. Patterson said no one has ever gotten a one. Mariyah usually gets a six.
‘Heart of gold’
After writing down her homework assignments, Mariyah began writing notes to her teacher.
“I love you, Ms. Patterson. I hope you had a great day,” Mariyah penciled in on March 15, along with another “Love you” for good measure.
Rather than just putting a check mark by the comments, Patterson began writing back.
“Love you!” Patterson writes. Or “Love you more!” in some cases, along with an artistic heart.
What prompted Mariyah to start filling her teacher’s heart with joy?
“Because she likes to be sweet, and she likes to help other people,” Mariyah said after returning home from her usual afternoon at the YMCA, where she completes her homework. “She helps us if we don’t know anything. She helps us read.”
When asked how she feels when she sees Patterson’s notes back to her, Mariyah said, “Excited… It makes me happy.”
Patterson describes Mariyah as a child who is eager to please her teachers and parents and a student who wants to learn.
“She’s a sweet little girl — she has a heart of gold,” Patterson said. “She’ll do whatever you ask her to do and if she sees something that needs to be done or fixed, she’ll do it. There’s paper on the floor, the average 7-year-old will keep walking over it. Not her. She keeps me organized, too. If I have this look like I know I’ve left something, she’ll go and get it.”
Teachers ‘under-appreciated’ since COVID
After teaching for 22 years, Patterson understands the value of a loving relationship between teachers and students, a bond that can last well beyond graduation and on into adulthood.
“I really think once we understand the positive impact we have, we would just dig our heels in and give them all we’ve got,” Patterson said.
Lowe said she hadn’t noticed the notes until recently because she hadn’t been keeping up with Mariyah’s agenda the way she should’ve been because of the stresses of life. In addition to the pandemic, her 16-year-old son is enrolled in Florida Youth Academy to give him the structure, discipline and life skills he needs, and it has her counting down the days until his return home. She also has a 2-year-old.
Last week, when Mariyah showed her something in her agenda, Lowe, 35, noticed the back-and-forth notes.
“To me, it just made me happy to know that somebody really takes their time to respond to a second-grader,” Lowe said. “Knowing my daughter, the notes to her teacher were genuine. So for Miss Patterson to take her time to respond back, it made me feel good. The kids are important to her.”
And Lowe wanted to make sure that Patterson’s bosses at the school district know what a loving teacher she is.
“Teachers are so under-appreciated, especially since COVID,” Lowe told The Ledger. She explained that Patterson and her teaching partner do Zoom calls at night, after work hours, with all the students to go over extra assignments. “They’ve just done an amazing job.”
Lisa Miller, a School Board member and longtime friend of Patterson, agrees.
“I met Demeteria Peterson Patterson my first day teaching (kindergarten),” Miller wrote on her Facebook page. “We instantly became family! She was my mentor and we have seen each other through the ups and downs of life. She is my sister. She is also an amazing teacher that loves her kids. Polk County is home to so many kind, loving teachers. You won’t find this on an accountability chart, but it is our most valuable resource!”
Featured image: Seven-years old Mariyah Davis began writing little “love you” notes in her class agenda to her teacher, Demeteria Patterson, in mid-March. The back and forth warmed the heart of Mariyah’s mother, who wrote about her appreciation to the school district. Ernst Peters/The Ledger