There are many attributes associated with being a successful teacher. A teacher informs and educates, but to do so, creating a connection in the classroom is critical.

As KTVA continues celebrating 25 years of the BP Teachers of Excellence program in Alaska, we highlight an outstanding educator who's been working to improve her connection with students.

Patty Clem's class at Williwaw Elementary School begins the same way every day, meeting with her fifth graders every morning.

“We kept trying to figure out what’s the missing link? How do we approve attendance; how do we improve connections?" Clem said.

The answer is engagement. Clem believes that establishing personal connections fosters growth in academic areas.

“When you do that, you connect your group and when you’re connected, then they can learn. If you’re a disconnected kid, you can’t learn," she explained. "The meeting is meant to be fun, it’s meant for me to be able to check in with my kids, it’s meant for us to show empathy for others, to wish others well, find out what’s going on in their lives.”

Clem says she wants her students to feel loved when they walk into her classroom, regardless of what they may be experiencing at home. This is her 33rd year teaching at Williwaw and her philosophy hasn't changed — balance love and encouragement with a structured agenda.

When her students get down to work, Clem encourages them to think beyond the lesson.

“We’re trying to have kids be reflective of why they did something, how they did something, how are they going to do it knowing they’re impulsive? How are they going to manage that?" She explained. "It’s bringing it to a conscious level of, ‘How do I work with people? How do I accomplish a task?”

She instills lessons that will be beneficial down the road and students leave her classroom ready to tackle the challenges that await in middle school and beyond.

She says she wants her students to take away a sense of resilience and that they can do any task no matter what.

"Make sure that they’re persistent advocating for themselves,” she said.

Beyond helping students, Clem is also Williwaw's staff development coordinator. She helps new teachers navigate the halls and the challenges they face. She leads with a reminder to be present in the moment and to be responsive instead of reactive.

But most importantly, she helps students understand their worth and they know they'll always have an advocate in Patty Clem.

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