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James Patterson Scholars


Best-selling novelist James Patterson believes one way to champion books and reading for children is by supporting our future teachers. That explains why his Patterson Family Foundation donated $48,000 to the UF College of Education in 2013 for scholarships benefiting eight incoming elementary education students. He doubled that amount in 2014 for a follow-up gift of $96,000 that not only creates $6,000 individual scholarships for eight new incoming students, but continues to support last year’s recipients during their second year of teacher preparation.

Not surprisingly, the prolific author and Florida resident asks that each new Patterson Scholar do some writing of their own–submitting a written essay after their first academic year describing how they plan to apply what they’ve learned in their future classrooms.


2014 Scholar Spotlights

The 2014-2015 recipients of the James Patterson award shared their passion for cultivating a love for reading in their students. Each scholar has a story to tell, a goal to strive for and a passion for teaching (You might call this: the Patterson passion).

Michelle BeiselMichelle-Beissel1

Michelle was inspired to major in elementary education because she wants to teach children all over the world about the importance of learning and reading. One day, she hopes to own a daycare center or preschool.

“The James Patterson award is meaningful because it focuses on reading. I truly believe that reading is essential for young children, so essential that I chose to focus my career around it.”


Ashley Burnan5-2Ashley Burnam

Ashley sees herself teaching first graders after graduation, and subsequently pursuing a career in education administration as a principal. In her opinion, reading is a fundamental aspect of society because it helps people grow and develop.

“Not only does reading promote intellectual development, but it also promotes creative development. It’s something we use every day, and it’s essential to children’s learning.” 


Gabriel ChavezGabriel Chavez5-1

After Gabriel earns his degree in elementary education, he plans to pursue a doctorate at UF and become a college professor. One of his favorite parts of teaching can be explained in two words: student empowerment. Gabriel believes reading lends itself to student empowerment because it opens doors to alternate realities.

“Reading is so important because it opens portals into new dimensions. Children can learn about anything from science to social studies, and fictional and nonfictional stories can transport them into new worlds.” 

Paige Fitzpatrick4Paige Fitzpatrick

Paige recently decided on a major in elementary education. She views the Patterson scholarship as a sign that this is the path she is meant to take in life and plans to teach first grade.

“Becoming a teacher is so meaningful to me because I want to bring heart and passion into the classroom, and make students excited to learn. I love the idea of making a positive impact on somebody’s future.”


Madison Kellenberger4

Madison Kellenberger

Madison can’t wait to become an elementary school teacher. She favors inspirational novels and hopes she can share these with students all around the world.

“I want to be a supportive role model in the lives of my students. I want to set up a good environment to foster learning and inspire my students to be the best versions of themselves.”


Monique Levy1Monique Levy

Monique has her sights set on teaching elementary school and eventually middle and high school, too. She considers helping students in all aspects of their lives an important part of teaching.

“As a teacher, I will strive to be a role model to someone. If I am able to help a student in more than one aspect – both academically and in their personal lifethen I’ll be happy.”


Aida Valdes2Aida Valdes

Aida hopes to combine her two passions in life, music and teaching, as an elementary educator. She enjoys nothing more than the look on childrens’ faces when they understand concepts for the first time.

“I really love the ‘aha’ moment that children get. As a child I really struggled with comprehension and critical thinking, but not everyone was there to help me. Luckily, a few teachers stepped in and took the time to help me understand, and I hope I can do the same for my future students.”

Madeline WardMadeline-Ward5

Madeline, a Gainesville native, hopes to begin her career as an elementary educator and then transition into educational leadership and administration. She remembers her favorite teachers, who sacrificed everything to make each student feel important.

“I don’t want a single child to walk out of my classroom without feeling valued or loved. A lot of the time our society tells children they have to be a certain way to be accepted, but that’s not true. I want to help them understand that every student is accepted for who they are.”

2013 Scholar Spotlight

The 2013-2014 recipients of the James Patterson award shared their passion for cultivating a love for reading in their students. Each scholar has a story, a goal to strive for and a passion for teaching (You might call this: the Patterson passion).

Jessica Berget

Jessica Berget

Jessica believes every student should receive the opportunity to learn to read. After working as a camp counselor for students with disabilities, she is inspired to become a special education teacher.

“The one thing I love most about teaching is seeing the looks on students’ faces when something clicks and they understand. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced.”

Shannan CampbellShannan Campbell final

After she earns her degree, Shannan aspires to teach reading to second or third graders. As a full-time student with a full-time waitressing job, Shannan still finds time to teach local kindergartners how to read. She believes reading is an essential part of our world, not only for students, but for everyone.

“I want to inspire students to read and feel confident when they’re reading, because reading is one of the most important aspects of life.”


Lauren Cassell

Lauren Cassell

It wasn’t until high school that Lauren found a book that she really loved, The Great Gatsby. If she can help each of her students find the right book, she believes they will come to share her passion for reading.

“The scholarship was important to me because it gave me a renewed perspective on the importance of reading. It reminded me why I loved reading in the first place.”


Carli Chiarelli9Carli Chiarelli

Carli is passionate about teaching elementary school children how to read. After all, it was in elementary school where she first read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and fell in love with reading herself.

“The James Patterson award is meaningful to me because I think it is important that future educators are recognized for their dedication and passion for teaching. I believe the field is undervalued and it’s crucial that the effort put forth by current and future educators is shared with as many people as possible.”

Emily Flynn

Emily Flynn

When Emily becomes an elementary teacher after college, she hopes to help her students understand how something as simple as learning to read gives them the chance to change the world. She hopes students will remember her as someone who made an impact on their lives.

“What I love most about teaching is just getting to interact with students. Young children are always optimistic and we can learn a lot from them. They always think that good triumphs evil and look at this world in a perfect way.”

Julia Marin
Julia Marin

Julia is in her second year at UF, and she is determined to become an elementary school teacher. With support from the Patterson scholarship, she is able to devote additional time toward volunteering at schools.

“I can’t wait to be a teacher because it brings me such joy to know that I would be giving students something as powerful as an education, which is something no one can take away.”


Audrey ShapiroNew Audrey1

Audrey just started the five-year Unified Elementary ProTeach program, putting her on track to receive a master’s in elementary education. She plans to teach second or third grade and aspires to be a positive role model for young children, providing them with a strong foundation of both academic and social skills.

“Educators are given the most rewarding opportunity in the world – to positively impact the children who will one day run this country.”


Taylor StrangeTaylor-Strange2

Taylor always knew she wanted to be a teacher and plans to start her career teaching kindergarten. She aims to share her passion for learning with students and make them excited to participate in class every day.

“Teaching gives you the chance to touch a student’s life for the rest of their life in a positive way. The idea is wonderful to me.”



To learn more about scholarships or the James Patterson Award, visit the UF College of Education Scholarship Page or contact a Student Affairs Advisor.