For more than 25 years, Georgia Northwestern Technical College’s Dr. Patricia Skates has been a pro-active voice in the drive for quality education in the Tennessee Valley. In a May 1 ceremony, the Chattanooga Bar Association awarded Dr. Skates the Liberty Bell Award for public service, the highest honor the association awards each year.
“I’m honored and humbled to receive the award,” said Dr. Skates. “It was a total surprise. Words cannot begin to convey my thanks to those involved in this process.” According to the Chattanooga Bar Association, the group accepts nominations every year for the Liberty Bell Award. The purpose of the award is to recognize community service that has strengthened the American system of freedom under law.
Skates, who holds many titles across the Tennessee Valley, serves as a Career Transition Specialist at Georgia Northwestern. In her position with GNTC, she helps students do everything it takes to get into college successfully. From helping students do testing to finding the resources needed to do well once they are in the classroom, Dr. Skates is dedicated to the future.
When trying to determine what a high-school student may wish to consider as a career path in the future, teachers and counselors often pose the question, “If you didn’t need to earn money, what job would you like to do?” It’s a question that sets up the respondent to really look at where their interests lie. “If you love what you do as a job, then it will never be a job,” said Dr. Skates.
After teaching teenagers for more than 27 years, Dr. Skates says her line of work is always full of surprises. “After all these years in education, I still ‘reap’ those surprises,” said Dr. Skates. “The job I have at Georgia Northwestern is basically what I did in the classroom each and every day of my career; encouraging students to get a head start on their professional lives. Working with all the high schools has just moved it up a couple of notches.”
Officials said, "Of the more than 50 people who have earned this honor through the past six decades, the Soddy-Daisy resident is truly among those deserving of the honor. Beyond teaching in the high schools of Georgia and Tennessee during the past four decades, Dr, Skates has served on 15 different professional or civic associations. Whether it be a group dedicated to education, or a project to register young voters in our region, Dr. Skates has tirelessly served the Greater Chattanooga area most of her adult life."
The current vice-mayor of Soddy-Daisy, she first worked for the City of Chattanooga Police Department in 1979 as a dispatcher and major crimes transcriber. Since her first days in public service, Dr. Skates has won dozens of honors. Among those accolades are four different Teacher of the Year awards.
“To be rewarded for what I love doing is icing on the cake,” said Dr. Skates about the May 1 event. “I even got surprised by a former student who attended the ceremony. She had made the decision to become a lawyer and said that a mock trial I once sponsored was the push for her to go into law practice.”
Dr. Skates is a graduate of the University of Chattanooga and Trevecca Nazarene University. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Education, a Master’s of Education Administration, and a Doctorate of Education. Dr. Skates retired from the Hamilton County Board of Education in 2010. She then went into Georgia to teach at Ridgeland High School in Walker County. The 60-year-old educator has visited 39 countries in her travels around the globe.