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The Heart of Learning

Charles F. Patton Middle School Teacher Celebrated by Citadel Credit Union

Charles F. Patton Middle School Special Education Teacher Carol Stem has been named a recipient of the 2024 Citadel Heart of Learning Award. 

“To be nominated is more important to me than winning the award because I know that someone took the time to put into words something that they love about me as a teacher. And I love my students, too,” she said. 

Every year, the Citadel Credit Union honors outstanding teachers across the Greater Philadelphia area of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Lancaster and Philadelphia counties with the Citadel Heart of Learning Award. 

As a winner, Stem received a glass heart and $1,000. 

If you ask her, Stem will say that she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. “I wanted to make an impact on the students who don’t always have things come easy to them,” she reflected. “I was told I would never go to college. I did that. I was told I would never get a job. I did that. I teach them that if you have any obstacles, you can overcome them.”  

Stem earned her Undergraduate degree in Speech Pathology from West Chester University, and a certification and Master’s degree in Special Education from Immaculata University. 

Steve Dissinger, Principal of Patton Middle School calls Stem extraordinary. “Carol is an outstanding learning support teacher,” he noted. “Creating a safe and welcoming learning environment comes easily to Carol… That said, what impresses me the most about Carol is her unwavering faith, her perseverance and her ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other when confronted with extreme loss.” 

When Stem tragically lost her own husband and son, she remembers that the Patton community reignited her passion. “I have never felt so accepted despite my struggles. They gave me strength.” 

She advised her colleagues, “As a teacher, you have to be authentic. Academics will come. If you establish a foundation of what makes you a better person, your students are going to trust you and they are going to do their best in your classroom.” 

A 22-year veteran, Stem retired at the end of this school year. “I thought my legacy was to make a difference in their world. But they have made more of a difference in my world. My students have blessed me more than I could ever have blessed them,” she commented. “That’s how I feel as I end my career.” 

For more information on the Citadel Heart of Learning Award, please visit the Citadel Credit Union website