This year's Mother Xavier Award recipient, Dr. Patricia Bryant, '77 and '12, considers children a "precious commodity" who deserve the utmost care and commitment from every educator they meet. During her more than 40-year career in education, Dr. Bryant has embodied those words, dedicating herself to helping young students become adults who will someday "embrace the world, feel confident, be productive and good citizens."
She has worked as a teacher, administrator, principal and, most recently, associate superintendent of early childhood education in Jersey City, where she supervises some 4,500 preschool students. Throughout the years, Dr. Bryant faced numerous challenges, including a school district where children speak more than 40 languages and many are living in "at-risk" environments where education is not always the highest priority.
But Dr. Bryant has always found a way to overcome obstacles ─ and inspire other teachers to do the same. She turned a rambunctious second grade class that was banned from the lunchroom into a well-behaved group that was welcomed to the cafeteria. She also transformed some disruptive sixth graders into model students through consistent routine, clearly defined expectations and intense class participation.
After earning an elementary education degree at the College of Saint Elizabeth in 1977, Dr. Bryant returned for a doctorate in educational leadership in 2012, focusing her thesis on supporting foreign language speaking preschoolers through targeted professional development of teachers.
She believes that preschool education is critical. "This is important work and if you don't know it today, you'll know it in the future, because the value of early childhood education is going to make a mark in the world.
"The amount of learning that happens in those few years is astronomical, even for three year olds ... They're just such sponges. That's why you always do your best every single day and just keep giving and giving because children are so ripe for learning at that age."
There is no question in Dr. Bryant's mind about her calling. "I love what I do. I love to develop leaders and I love inspiring others."