The man, the myth, the legend: Patrick Sasser, the new Computer Science teacher joins the Spartan family.
After beloved teacher Stacey Fornstrom retired from TJ, a hero came along to rescue students from computer bugs and coding confusion. His name? Patrick Sasser. Sasser moved to Colorado from Missouri because he “needed a fresh start” after Missouri passed anti-trans legislation that made it difficult for his family to get the care they needed from doctors. As fate would have it, a position opened up here at TJ. Sasser applied and got the position, leading him to teach his 18th year in a new state, at a new school, and in a new community.
Sasser started his journey of teaching in high school when one of his favorite teachers, Jeff Cochran, inspired him to go into web design. “When I took his course, I just loved it. I spent tons of time over there, did so many things, and learned so many cool skills,” said Sasser. His love for this subject led him to major in web design and programming in college, earning him his Bachelor of Science Degree in Interactive Digital Media (New Media) at Northwest Missouri State University. After college, he went to work for an insurance company as a Java programmer; however, the job did not satisfy him. “I didn’t love it,” he stated. “It was really boring and really mundane.” What Sasser didn’t know was that just around the corner, a new job opportunity would change his life for the better.
Sasser’s monotonous first job was not what he envisioned in his life; he wanted more. When Cochran asked him to apply for a teaching position at their school, he was able to get what he wanted. The issue was that he didn’t have a teaching degree, so he took concurrent enrollment classes to get his degree while he was teaching. Through this, he was able to get his Master’s degree on Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri and his Educational Specialist of Learning Technologies & Design at the University of Missouri. Even though this was uncharted territory for him, he still enjoyed it, stating that since the very first day, he’s “loved every minute of it.”
The importance of education for kids made Sasser more passionate about teaching. “I think education is the key to breaking cycles of poverty [and] breaking any negative cycle in a person’s life. Education was hugely influential in my own life. I consider myself a lifelong learner and I love learning so much, so I think that’s why ultimately I went into education,” said Sasser, who is now bringing his knowledge and love for education to TJ.
Sasser being a new teacher at TJ does not mean he has easy work . He is taking on multiple classes: Digital Media, Coding 1, and AP Computer Science Principles, two of which he hasn’t specifically taught before. “I would say my Coding 1 course is a difficult one to prepare for, especially because I have never done anything like game design.” He knows that education and software change all the time and believes that he just needs to adapt and learn all the new software and techniques.
In the classroom, Sasser is anything but quiet. “I try to be loud, crazy, and bring positivity [and] excitement to the curriculum. I think we [have] all experienced teachers who maybe we considered to be not the most exciting.” He believes that with a little positivity and connection with his students, they will have a better experience in the classroom.
While Sasser hopes students leave with a better understanding of coding and a mastery of all concepts, he also wants them to leave with a positive attitude. “I start every day by saying ‘today is a great day to be great’ because I want kids to understand that we can make today great.” He believes that everyone has a responsibility and an opportunity to make each day better than the last and wants students to leave with an accepting attitude for others because “after all, everyone in here is just a human being trying to survive and exist.”
Sasser not only teaches this attitude but also practices it himself. “I strive to meet people where they are and try to give people the attention, respect, and care that they deserve. I try to be super positive because I think that there is enough negativity in this world. I try to meet kids with a positive attitude and a welcoming environment.” He makes sure that nothing a student does changes the way he perceives them.
Outside of school, Sasser goes home to a family he adores. He has three kids ages 7, 10, and 12 and a wife he married about three months ago. “I love my family so much. I am a family man for sure,” said Sasser. He loves sports, coaching, programming, watching action movies, and being outside. One of the things Sasser likes about Colorado is “the super nice weather and the friendly atmosphere.”
Sasser once heard someone say, “we are always in a state of change and so we are either contracting or we are growing, and so to do nothing is to contract.” He hopes he is not contracting and that he is rather expanding in his knowledge of teaching, grading, and connecting with students. Sasser wants people to see him as super positive, excited to be here, and a valuable addition to this community. Even though he has been here for a few weeks, he has made a huge impact with his students. Junior Nes Masa, said, “I honestly really love Mr. Sasser. He is really fun and awesome, and he makes class a great environment. Overall, he is an amazing teacher.” They want Sasser to know that he is “doing an amazing job” and to “keep up the good work.” Junior Evangelia Latsis added, “He brings so much energy into our class, which makes it a lot of fun.”
In the future, Sasser plans on getting a positive coaching degree at the University of Denver because he loves sports and the impact it has on students. He has some big shoes to fill, but with the impact he is already making, he is sure to succeed. Remember, Spartans, today is a great day to be great!