PATTERSON, La. — "One thing I like about it is, black and white people can be in this school," says 4th-grader Ishani Martin, speaking well beyond her years. "Not just like they're separated schools—one where white people are in this school and one where black people are in this school—but then, this is a school where black and white people are in."
In the town of Patterson, it's safe to say that education in the community wouldn't be the same without the woman who is—and the legend that is--- Hattie Watts.
"Her father taught her to read, and to know that they didn't have any education," explains Hattie Watts principal Brianna Comeaux. "But they were able to learn how to read and write, and then to start a school."
A child of Anderson and Antoinett Tibbs, shortly after the Civil War, Hattie Watts became a teacher for $30 a month in what was called 'The Patterson Colored School'. She persevered and started Adult Education classes where she continued to teach reading to St. Mary Parish residents of all ages.
"I can only imagine what she went through to begin a school like this," adds Comeaux "She had so few students, and we now have 600 students here today."
She passed away in 1932, and in the mid 1950s a new Hattie Watts Elementary was built right on the site of her old school.
And there are good things happening. The school was designated as a Leader In Me School based on Covey's seven habits, and it's the largest elementary school in St. Mary Parish.
Hattie A. Watts –educator and trailblazer--- is both remembered and inspires each and every day.
"Hattie A. Watts was the first African-American teacher and our school is named after her," sums up a smiling Martin.
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