Fred & Patti Shafer
Fred Shafer recalls wanting to help kids as early as his high school years. One of his first chances came when members of his Sunday school class in Bishop, Texas, adopted students from Youth City in nearby Driscoll, and he brought the news home to his family that they would have an extra guest for Thanksgiving dinner. They set another place at the table and set his future in motion.
His first job after graduate school was at the Region III Education Center in Victoria, not long after passage of Public Law 94-142, the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. One of his assignments was to knock on doors, looking for special-needs children and bringing the life-changing news to families that, for the first time, there was an opportunity for their children to attend public school. Some, he recalls, wept with joy and near disbelief.
During his years at the Service Center, he developed the desire to move to a school district, where he felt he could have a much more direct impact. His chance came in 2000, when he took over the helm of Katy ISD’s special education program. The most amazing part of seeing his wish come true, he says, was when he realized that programs designed to help students also had a profound effect on other adults. He’s taken particular satisfaction in developing positive connections with parents while working through problematic situations, and in mentoring professionals as they advance their careers.
During his tenure at Katy ISD, the district’s Preschool Programs for Children with Disabilities was recognized as a Promising Practice by the Texas Education Agency in 2005 and 2006, the only district ever to receive this honor for two consecutive years. Among his many other accomplishments, he established the Behavior Transition Program for students with the most severe emotional and behavioral difficulties and the Therapeutic Intervention Program for medically fragile students.
Fred earned a B.A. from Texas A&I University, an M.Ed. from Southwest Texas State University, and principal certification from the Region II Education Service Center Administration Program. He has been presented the Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education (TCASE) Hall of Honor Award for distinguished service in the field of special education and was nominated by Region IV for Texas Special Education Administrator of the Year.
If you’ve ever tried to follow Patti Shafer around a crowded school hallway, you’d find it hard to believe the family doctor advised her parents that polio would prevent their six-month-old daughter from ever walking. Nobody believed it then, either. Her parents told her she could do anything she wanted to, and she first proved them right by learning to walk. “I’m the person I am,” she says, “because they encouraged me to be outgoing, to achieve, and to never let excuses get in my way.” She loved to take chances just like the other kids – right onto the monkey bars or wherever her older sisters went. One of her fondest memories, and perhaps the one that set the direction of her career path, was going to school with braces and crutches, where she found teachers ready to help her – literally – every step of the way.
Equipped with a teaching degree and certifications in early childhood and kindergarten, she first walked into her own classroom in Austin, followed by elementary and middle school assignments in Port Lavaca and Victoria, and two years at the Region III Education Service Center. From the very beginning, she refused to accept “I can’t do that” as an excuse from any of her students, whether they were special-needs or hale-and-hearty.
After 16 years in the classroom, Patti began to see herself in a new role as an administrator. She had just been named principal at Roland elementary in Victoria, when the moving van rolled up and she and Fred came to Katy. Here, she served as assistant principal at McDonald Jr. High, principal at West Memorial Jr. High and opened WoodCreek Jr. High in 2008. The first principal who hired her as assistant, “took a real chance on me,” she says. Students, staff and parents from Victoria to Katy would certainly agree he knew a sure thing when he saw it.
Patti holds a B.S. in elementary education from Texas A&I University, and two Master’s degrees from the University of Houston-Victoria, one in curriculum and instruction and one in school administration. She was named the Outstanding Assistant Principal for Region III by the Texas Association of Secondary Principals in 1996. She now shares her amazing energy, instructional expertise, and deep love for children with the next generation of teachers as a field supervisor for the Region IV Education Service Center.