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Life on the Hill Q&A: Teacher of MIT-bound student
Sarah Lemmons stands with her student, DaMarcus Patterson. - photo by Photo provided.

RHHS teacher Sarah Lemmons talks about teaching DeMarcus Patterson, who is headed to MIT after graduation.

 Q: How is Patterson as a student?

A: We have a tendency in education to use the word "exceptional" to describe students who are gifted intellectually. There are plenty of exceptional students at my school. I can honestly say that after 25 years of teaching, I’ve never had a student so capable of logically thinking through a problem and then being able to write code to re-create it on the computer.He is superior in his inquiring mind, and he pushes the limits of analytical thinking, seeing and helping others to see, missed connections.

Q: How has the community helped the students at RHHS?

A: We are so lucky to have a very involved community that supports education and wants to see the best results academically. That is why the majority of us moved to this town. It has been my experience that you only need ask for assistance and someone will find a way to help you.

Q: What do you hope for DaMarcus?

A: DaMarcus is headed to MIT this fall. My hope for him is that he and his family can financially continue to make this happen for him. Facing ... transportation (and other costs) will be a challenge for them. He will even need a wardrobe change to get warmer clothes! The payoff will be well worth it in the end however.

Q: What influence did you have in DaMarcus’ education?

A: I first took notice of DaMarcus two years ago when, after I taught my honors chemistry class for the day, a shy young man approached me to ask about a problem he had been working on and how it related to that day’s topic. It turned out that DaMarcus was creating a computer program that would do the homework problems associated with the chemistry class. By the time the course was over, he had successfully written an entire program to work every chemistry problem faced in class including stoichiometry, percent yield and titrations. I also taught DaMarcus for AP physics 1 and 2. Once again, he wrote code for a computer program to work most of the problems in both classes. He is an exceptional physics student and shows great strength in both mathematics and physics. He did really well on both AP exams.

Q: What is your mission for all your students?

A: I hope to instill in my students a love for science and a desire to be inquisitive about the world around them. I really want them to ask "why" something works the way it does and not be afraid to explore. I also want them to understand having a work ethic and to try their best.

Q: Why did you become a teacher?

A: I got recruited to the teaching field back when Georgia had its last significant teacher shortage. The state started a campaign on college campuses including my school, Emory University. At the time, I was tutoring math and physics to help pay for college and one of my classmates, who I helped frequently, said that I was really good at tutoring and should really consider giving teaching a try. For me, the better question is why I remain in the classroom? The answer to that is the satisfaction I get from kids like DaMarcus who start off unassuming and then wind up challenging me to do so much more.

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