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Patricia Vakos

teacher photoPatricia Vakos of Virginia Beach, Virginia, teaches world history and Advanced Placement European history at Ocean Lakes High School. Over her teaching career, she has taught both middle- and high-school students and covered a variety of social studies courses, including United States history, government, geography, and economics. Pat has written several social studies curricula, one for history in Collier County, Florida, and, most recently, a new course for Virginia Beach City Public Schools: World History to 1000 A.D. She is a Virginia Beach District Trainer in instructional strategies for the Virginia Beach Schools Staff Development Office.

Vital Statistics
B.S. in Business Administration from The College of William and Mary
M.S. in Social Studies Education from Old Dominion University
Virginia Social Studies Teacher of the Year, 2000
Joint Council of Economic Education, State Award for creation of educational materials
Joint Council of Economic Education, Fourth Place National Award for development of economic curriculum

Why did you become a teacher?
My parents had insisted that I become certified to teach at the college level. I did not major in education and did not really wish to become a teacher. Four older sisters had been very successful teachers, and I wanted to explore different career opportunities. After graduation, I taught for two years and left when accepted into the MBA program at William and Mary. After one semester, I changed to a masters program in education and returned to teaching.

After nine years, I decided I needed change and became a sales representative/consultant for a textbook publisher. With each visit to a school, I missed teaching and decided that teaching was the career I loved. I have taught ever since and have enjoyed "almost" every minute of it.

What do you feel are your successes as a teacher?
I feel success almost every day when I see that look on the faces of students who can "see," or can visualize, what I am teaching. I feel success in AP European History when almost 90 percent of my students score a 3 or better on the national exam. My AP students are tenth graders and mostly average to above average. This is their first Advanced Placement class, and many must be taught how to learn and study. I take great pride in their ability to master a college-level exam.

What are your greatest challenges?
My greatest challenges are harnessing the energy and removing the apathy of ninth graders as they enter high school.

Do you have a philosophy of education?
If a student can develop a "mental image" of the subject through a blend of student discovery, student interests, and student-centered education, there will be greater thinking, understanding, and retention.

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