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Patricia Downey, 2008 Woman of Achievement

Patricia Downey, 2008 Woman of Achievement

Over the years, teacher and mentor Patty Downey has successfully nominated several of her students as “Women of Achievement.”   In 2008, it is her turn to accept that distinguished award.

Patty grew up in the Pacific Northwest where her father, Dennis, was a logger and millworker.  Her mother, Pat, worked as a housekeeper at Good Samaritan Hospital while raising Patty and her two brothers, Bobby and George.

After graduating from Corvallis High School, Patty attended Oregon State University for two years, then married her husband Michael.  With Michael serving as an officer in the Air Force, the Downeys lived throughout the country and travelled the world. 

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Patty credits her husband, who served as a Boy Scout troop leader, for drawing her into volunteer work.  “I first became involved in the [Boy Scout] Women’s Reserve and edited a newsletter for the Far East Council when we lived in the Philippines,” she said.  “I also worked as a Red Cross volunteer there.”

When the Downeys moved to Vancouver, Patty did crisis hotline counseling and worked as a reading tutor with the “I Care” program at Cascade Junior High [now Middle] School. 

By this time, Patty had earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Psychology from Mississippi Women’s University in Columbus, MS.  She went on to earn her master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Portland.  She has also done extensive graduate work at Portland State University and attended the summer writing program at Lewis and Clark College.

In 1999, she joined the staff of Mountain View High School, where she teaches pre-Advanced Placement (AP) English and Spanish.  “I have always enjoyed helping students learn to communicate their ideas through writing and speaking,” Patty said. 

At age 31, she started running and became a marathoner, taking part in the Hood to Coast relay and other competitions.  She coached track for 14 years at Pacific and Frontier Middle Schools.   She and a friend served as advisors for the Washington Teen Institute (later known as the Natural High Club), focusing on how to have fun without doing drugs or alcohol. 

In 2000, a student walked into Patty’s room and asked her to serve as advisor for the Key Club, a role she still embraces today.  Key Clubs operate through local high schools in conjunction with Kiwanis International, giving students the opportunity to serve others.   Patty praises the members of the Kiwanis Club of Cascade Park for their support of Key Clubs at Mountain View, Union and Camas High Schools.

“I truly enjoy doing volunteer work,” Patty said.  “It helps people and allows me to spend time outside the classroom with students.”  

She noted, “I know that students sometimes join Key Club because they know it will look good on their resumes.  But then the beauty of service kicks in and they realize:  ‘This really feels good’ or ‘I’m just a kid but I can make a difference’ and that’s very empowering.”  She added, “Once they’ve experienced the intrinsic rewards of helping other people, I hope that service and giving back to the community will be part of who they are as adults.” 

Patty’s husband Michael frequently helps with Key Club activities.  Her daughter Shannon has also continued the family tradition of service.  After earning her master’s degree in International Public Health from Tulane University in New Orleans, Shannon served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon.

“I believe that each of us can make a difference and a positive change in this world,” Patty said.  “Many people need help, and everybody wins when people become involved and care about others around them.”


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