Chat Room - Patricia Mandigo

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

New Heritage High School principal Patricia Mandigo retired from teaching and administration after 32 years in the Palm Beach County, Fla., public school system. She worked in real estate for six months, just long enough, she said, to sell her
house. Then she and husband, Roger, moved to Blount County to retire.

Retirement didn’t suit Patricia. She was bored. At her church, Restoration Outreach International congregation, she got to see Heritage High School, which was where the church was meeting.

"My first experience with Heritage High School was church. Then the opportunity opened up. It was a God thing," she says. "I’ve never seen a school in an area as beautiful as this. It’s incredible. The kids are polite and nice and the experience with the staff and students has been wonderful. I get up everyday excited to be here. I absolutely love it."

Mandigo said Blount County Schools director Alvin Hord stepped out on faith to hire an outsider. "I’ve been very grateful, and, hopefully, he’s proud of me, and the way things are going," she says.

Mandigo and her husband of 33 years have a 30-year-old son, Sean, who lives in Florida. They also have two dogs.

Here is Patty Mandigo:

What was your most embarrassing moment?
Mandigo said her most embarrassing moment was part of a student reward for a successful fund raiser. "I was assistant principal and students collected jars of money (as a fund raiser). I got the biggest jar of money and they wanted me to kiss a pig."

What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
"The Energizer Bunny. They think I’m all over the place."

When you were 5 years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?
"My whole life a - school teacher."

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
"My curly hair, curly hair is terrible. When you’re a girl, and you have curly hair, you want straight hair. In humidity and rain, it’s all frizzy and ugly. I’ve always tried to do something with my kinky, curly hair.

Why did you pursue the career you chose?
"It’s my whole life. I can honestly say I lived on a hill without teaching (in retirement), and I thought it was the end of my life. These kids keep you young. They have issues. Their parents have high expectations and needs, and it gives you a reason to get up and be here."

What is your passion?
"I guess it’s my life. It’s all I’ve ever known. Other people have taken to different jobs. I started when I turned 21 and was in education until I was 53 and 54 and now I’m back."

To what do you attribute your success?
"Success would be helping students to graduate and go on with their lives and become productive citizens and coming back to visit me and saying I made a difference in their lives."

With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
"I didn’t have a dad, just a mom, a single mom. She raised me the best she could. She passed away 13 years ago. I’d tell her, ‘Thank you,’ for all the things she did."

What is the best book you’ve ever read?
"I real lot of Nora Roberts. We’re reading a lot of stuff education-wise such as "The World is Flat," by Thomas L. Friedman. The best books on leadership are by John Marshall.

What do you hate?
"I hate things that are going to hurt people -- drugs and violence - things that ruin people’s lives.

What do you do to relax or for fun?
"I shop until I drop. I go shopping, go get my nails done, read, play with my dogs and go out to dinner with my husband."

What is your dream vacation?
"Alaska, because my husband would really like to go. Being adventurous is being in Blount County for me."

What is your favorite toy?
Mandigo keeps a new dancing Elmo doll on hand for students for moments of distraction. "Even at the high school level, they love it. They only act big among themselves."

Rebels, Tornadoes, Mountaineers or Governors?
"Mountaineers! I love the Mountaineers. They’re my team."

If you won a big lottery jackpot, what is the charitable donation you would make and how would you splurge?
"My son had cancer when he was 21. He’s 30 now. That’s good news. I would donate to cancer research and get my husband a big, big fishing boat."

Would you travel in space?
"No, traveling to Knoxville is a chore. I’m a chicken."

If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
Mandigo says she would visit her old high school on the week of the prom and graduation. "I liked my prom and graduation."

If you couldn’t live in Blount County, where would you like to live?
"I’m very happy here, but if not here, on the ocean in Florida. My husband is happy as he can be, too. He loves his life here. I dragged him up here. Now he wants to spend the rest of his life right here."

Coke or Pepsi?
"Definitely Diet Coke," she says.

What is your favorite sport and favorite sport’s team?
"Lady Vols basketball. When I came a year ago, I was amazed. I’m not really a basketball fan (but) I was taken by Pat Summit. I thought they were pretty incredible."

Were you ever paddled while in school?
Mandigo says she was never paddled, but she had to paddle students while she was an assistant principal and didn’t enjoy it. Often when students were in trouble they would line up for her to paddle them because she wasn’t as big as the male assistant principal. "I hated to paddle, I wasn’t any good at it. I was a wimp."

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