Angie Patti and her kindergarten students in the classroom

Raise Up Teachers: Angie Patti

by Bryon Houlgrave

Angie Patti knew what she was doing when she asked her kindergarten students at St. Augustin Catholic School in Des Moines to write down one nice thing about each of their classmates.

The lesson was kindness, and the impression it left on at least one of her students was permanent. 

“One of the best lessons that Mrs. Patti taught our family was about kindness and how to build each other up,” Collin Barnes told Mrs. Patti’s current kindergarten class as Iowa PBS visited the classroom to surprise Mrs. Patti with a Raise Up Teacher recognition. 

Collin’s daughter, Darby, was in Mrs. Patti’s class last year, and remembers one day in particular. 

December 17, a week before Christmas, Mrs. Patti took those kind words from her students, typed them up on little strips of paper, encased them in a clear Christmas ornament and handed them out to her class as Christmas gifts, personal keepsakes they could all look back on over time and feel proud of. 

Darby, now a first grader, told her mom in the car after school that afternoon that she just had the best day of her life. 

Unbeknownst to Darby, the faculty at the school that December day had been busy monitoring a scary situation. A trend on a social media channel had declared December 17, 2021, “American School Shooting Day,” and teachers nationwide were on high alert. 

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found no credible evidence of threats, they urged the public to remain alert, according to a CNN report. School districts in some states decided to not hold classes that Friday. Parents nationwide were weighing the decision to send their kids to school or keep them home. Darby’s parents ultimately decided to send their kids to school, but the decision didn’t come without some anxiety.

While the country held its breath for the final bell of the day, Mrs. Patti calmly continued to teach her class about kindness.

“I think in today’s society there’s too much negative talk and we either don’t hear the positives or we always just focus on the negative,” Mrs. Patti said. “So I just want to make sure the kids always know how much we value them and how much their classmates find value in them as well.”

St. Augustin principal Kristel Spike appreciates the special connection Mrs. Patti has with the students in her classes.

“Her students just absolutely adore her,” Spike said. 

On December 17, 2021, as a nation collectively skirted what could have been the worst day, Mrs. Patti was responsible for creating, for one student at least, the best day. 

Darby shared her Christmas ornament, with the little paper affirmations, with Mrs. Patti’s current class while her mom continued to recognize their teacher, who has been at the school for 10 years. 

“This beautiful ornament, if you look really closely inside, there’s a piece of paper with nice things written about Darby on it,” Collin said. “So it says she’s ‘really good at coloring,’ and ‘she has a nice smile,’ and she ‘does a good job at cartwheels.’ All these wonderful things that she can feel proud of.”

Note: Angie Patti was nominated for a Raise Up Teacher recognition by Susan Ramsey, the Director of Communications at Iowa PBS and grandmother of Darby Barnes.