VINTON–Roanoke Catholic School has more than 100 years of history. Patrick Patterson has been there for five months. Yet he walks through the halls like he was spent his entire life in those passageways.
On Ring Day in October, when juniors and graduates spoke of their passion for the school, Patterson cheered and clapped like he had had the experiences himself. Being principal for only five months doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm for the school and its mission, or for the people inside the walls. Today, he has integrated himself into the school perfectly. Every fact, every bit of information about the school begins with “we.”
He begins and ends every day with greetings: for parents, he has handshakes and smiles, and students are acknowledged with high-fives. When he walks through the halls, or the cafeteria, or even the parking lots, people take notice.
Many know Vinton resident Patrick Patterson because of his run for the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors in 2009, and his loss to incumbent Mike Altizer by a mere 17 votes. Patterson is so much more than that election, though. He is a husband, a father, and a devoted Catholic; for years, he was a William Byrd High School guidance counselor; and now, he is the principal of Roanoke Catholic School. It’s the position he has been working towards for a lifetime.
Patterson was not a “cradle Catholic,” as he refers to those who were raised in the religion. Yet growing up, as he was exposed to Catholicism by his friends, he seemed to find himself inside those traditions. In high school, he attended a male military boarding school, where he delved further into the faith. His wife, Annette, is a “cradle Catholic,” and their two children have always attended Catholic schools. When the couple moved to Roanoke, they enrolled their children at Roanoke Catholic.
“We believe, in the Catholic faith, if you have the opportunity to educate children in a Christian school, [you should],” Patterson said. “I’ve actually been a parent here for six years.”
Still, Patterson was not yet prepared for a job leading the very school his children were enrolled in. At the time, he had a long way to go. Yet he knew that someday, he would get to his destination.
“Education and administration have always been in my blood,” Patterson said, noting that his uncle Robert Patterson was the principal of William Byrd High School for many years. “I always knew I would be in education.”
In 2006, he finally had an opportunity. With a Masters degree, and as the Guidance Coordinator at WHBS, he had the chance to take administrative classes towards a certification. He spent two years of nights, weekends, and summers taking classes, and eventually passed the SLLA exam in February 2007. With the passage of that exam, he was eligible to become an administrator anywhere in the country.
“The truth of the matter was that I was very, very happy at Byrd…but that wasn’t God’s plan for me,” Patterson said. “Being a school administrator is really one of the best ways to make things happen [in education].”
He applied for positions in Roanoke County, as well as neighboring jurisdictions. He could never seem to find that perfect, cookie-cutter fit, though, until he interviewed for the position of principal at Roanoke Catholic.
Principal of Roanoke Catholic School is the job he has been working towards his entire life. He has combined all of his education, his passion for Catholicism, his experience in public schools and public affairs offices, and even his knowledge from campaigning, and has put it all into his job as the new principal. He has truly taken up the torch for Roanoke Catholic, and has already made huge advances in the education of children in this Catholic school setting.
In his five months on the job, he has already increased enrollment by approximately 100 students; he has improved the school’s outward appearance; he has began theater arts and after school dance and even a band just for parents; and he has partnered with Virginia Western Community College to offer classes to Roanoke Catholic students.
“The fact that we’re the only individual school to partner with Virginia Western, that’s huge,” Patterson said.
Although he has only been principal a short time, Patterson has already done so much good for a school that he feels incredibly passionate about.
“There are so many things at Roanoke Catholic that make us unique,” Patterson said. “I miss my kids at William Byrd…I miss [their] parents. But here, I’m doing God’s work. And I’m happy.”