New Teachers Bring Enthusiasm While Handling Challenges

Dr. Eric Punkay

Dr. Eric Punkay – Earth Science (Amaya Dockery)

Our first teacher is Eric Punkay, an Earth Science teacher at Green Hope, who started on the first day of the second semester: January 19th. Dr. Punkay was motivated to start a new job in the middle of the school year because he was looking to move to North Carolina, and Green Hope seemed like an attractive school when he was searching for teaching positions. He thought it looked like a place to apply for because the student body is diverse and is engaged in learning. 

Dr. Punkay recently transferred from another job in the sustainability department of Denver Public Schools System where he was advocating to secure funding for electric school buses within the entire district; an extremely significant conservation idea. Nonetheless, he does have a teaching history; Dr. Punkay taught for six years in high school and also taught at Sacramento State University as well as Green Mountain College. 

Green Hope has been good so far, but adjusting has been difficult since his family is still in Denver; however, they are coming to the area in the summer. Also, Wake County and the Green Hope student population are much larger than his old district which was just one city.  It had several hundred students compared to our thousands.

Along with spending time with family, Dr. Punkay enjoys hiking, camping, or pretty much anything outside. He is also passionate about reading, hunting, and martial arts.

Dr. Punkay cares greatly about the environment, and one of the main reasons he became a teacher is to improve younger students’ science literacy. He hopes to affect more students and give them an idea of how science works to better understand world problems that are commonly misunderstood. As a scientist with a PhD and a well-rounded teacher, Dr. Punkay will definitely create a great learning environment and benefit students’ understanding of all things science.

Ms. Sarah Patton

Ms. Sarah Patton – World History (Arnav Praveen)

Another one of Green Hope’s new teachers is Ms. Sarah Patton. Ms. Patton teaches freshman World History for all three of her class periods. She has loved her time at Green Hope so far. “I really enjoy it here. The people are nice and the students are funny,” she said. 

Ms. Patton initially moved to Raleigh to teach at Enloe High School where she worked in a classroom with another teacher. She ultimately chose to transfer to Green Hope to help ease the escalating teacher shortage in Wake County.  “I felt that there was no reason to be in a classroom with another teacher during this time,” stated Patton.

Although coming to Green Hope has been rewarding, she hasn’t found the transition to be easy. “It was very chaotic to be thrown into class last minute,” Patton said. She didn’t have time to decorate her classroom or buy supplies before the start of the semester. On top of that, she didn’t gain access to PowerSchool until a few weeks after class had begun. 

Despite these setbacks, Patton has thoroughly enjoyed teaching here at Green Hope.  In fact, becoming a teacher was her childhood dream. In high school, she was told by her teachers not to pursue a career in education. Taking their advice, she decided to break away from her younger self’s dream and major in chemistry instead. It was only after tutoring her sister, at the time a sophomore in chemistry, that she realized how gifted she was at teaching. She knew that she needed to become a teacher and finally made the monumental career switch.

During her time off, you can find Ms. Patton doing a variety of activities. Her top priority outside of work is traveling. “It is my favorite thing to do,” Patton said. She also loves board games and would consider herself an avid thrifter. Since moving to the area, she has enjoyed exploring new thrift stores, especially Dorcas Ministries. 

Patton’s mindset surrounding teaching stems from her personal experience in school. Growing up, she had her fair share of difficult, unpleasant teachers. Patton wants to be sure that this generation of students does not experience what she did. She wants to foster a safe, happy environment for her students. Just by speaking with Ms. Patton, it is clear how much she cares about her students. One thing is certain: Ms. Patton is sure to help her young freshmen students get off on the right foot. 

Ms. Sydney Gavan

Ms. Sydney Gavan – Sociology and American History (Naomi Troiano)

Another one of Green Hope’s featured teachers is Ms. Sydney Gavan.  Ms. Gavin started at Green Hope this semester and teaches Sociology as well as American History Two. She has enjoyed Green Hope so far because teachers are given freedom and the students have been excellent.  She really appreciates that the students speak up in class.  Ms. Gavan transferred here from a school in Hartford County, Virginia. It was a school in “the middle of nowhere” that received no funding. Unfortunately, there were a lot of violent crimes and student deaths. She chose Green Hope as her new home because we believe in valuing students not only on their grades and tests. “Green Hope tries to get rid of the traditional mindset around grades,” Gavan said. 

Although Green Hope has been a great experience, one adjustment that has been difficult is waking up so early to get to school on time. The school she previously taught at started more than an hour later, but the lack of sleep is fulfilled by getting to teach to start the day. When asked why she wanted to become a teacher, Ms. Gavan explained that she had a really bad teacher in high school who was “racist and mean,” leading to this teacher getting fired. She realized that “The more good teachers that exist, the less bad ones there are out there. I want to be one of the good ones.”

Although this is only her second semester teaching, Ms. Gavan has a great mindset that she said defines her as a teacher. Simply put, it’s that grades don’t define a student, and she wants to “bring curiosity back into the education system.” Part of this is advocating for technology use in the classroom because Google can answer any question and should continue to be at the fingertips of students. 

Outside of work, Ms. Gavan loves going to museums with friends and tries to go to a different place every week. Her other interests include history, reading, baking, and being alone sometimes as she considers herself an introvert. She also loves the game Dungeons and Dragons. Overall, Ms. Gavan has a lively personality and her classroom will definitely put a spin on the traditional ideas of learning. We are sure that she will “be one of the good ones” in her future at Green Hope.

The more good teachers that exist, the less bad ones there are out there. I want to be one of the good ones”

— Ms. Sydney Gavan

Ms. Virginia Davis 

Ms. Virginia Davis – Fashion Merchandising and Marketing (Neely Mallik)

Green Hope brings in yet another new staff member, Mrs.Virginia Davis.  Mrs. Davis is the newly appointed Fashion Merchandising, and Marketing teacher. She began teaching at Green Hope a couple of days into the second semester.

Mrs. Davis recently moved from Charlotte to Raleigh. While in Charlotte, Mrs. Davis taught for seven years at Ardrey Kell High School. She notes that there are many similarities between her old school and Green Hope, but one difference between the two schools is the smaller class sizes.  While job hunting in anticipation of making the move from Charlotte to Raleigh, Mrs. Davis decided to pursue Green Hope because of her fantastic interview experience and all the great things she had heard about the school.  

Despite the fact that she had a late start to the new semester, Mrs. Davis has described her adjustment to the new school as “pretty easy.” She has enjoyed mixing things up and getting to work in a new environment. As a teacher, Mrs. Davis values relationship building with students and hopes to continue to get to know her new students better. 

Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Davis enjoys spending quality time with her friends and family. One of her favorite vacation spots is the beach where she gets to relax when taking time away from school.  When on a beach trip, Mrs. Davis will likely have a mystery book in her hands.