Mentor Spotlight: Getting to Know Patty Lansink
Mentor principals have played a critical role in the success of the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) since the program’s inception in 2012. The experience, accountability, and personal attention that these leaders provide has been a defining characteristic of the LEI, helping Catholic school principals—and their teams— institute lasting changes.
After schools attend the LEI summer conference, mentor principals maintain regular contact with the 4-6 school leaders in their group through monthly video conference calls. These conversations, which focus on various themes related to Latino outreach, recruitment, and enrollment, are an opportunity for school leaders to learn from one another and receive real-time consultation and feedback from their mentor on some of the things that they’re doing in their school.
The commitment of our LEI mentors, most of whom are still active Catholic school principals themselves, is truly the engine that drives the LEI. These Mentor Spotlight pieces are intended to be a fun way to help you get to know these incredible school leaders—both professionally and personally—who dedicate so much of their lives to this mission.
This month, we highlight Patty Lansink. Patty originally attended the LEI in 2014 as the principal of St. Rose of Lima School in Denison, Iowa. Her school's enrollment growth and her capacity for leadership quickly caught the attention of the LEI team, as well as that of the Diocese of Sioux City. In 2015, Patty became an assistant superintendent in the Diocese of Sioux City, while continuing to serve as the principal at St. Rose of Lima, and also joined the LEI leadership team as a mentor principal. Since then, Patty has worked with 17 different schools as an LEI mentor, and in 2018, became the Superintendent of Schools in the Diocese of Sioux City. As a diocesan leader, Patty is part of a growing number of former LEI school principals who are now spreading the message of the LEI to a greater number of Catholic schools and prioritizing Latino outreach at the (arch)diocesan level.
You were a principal for seven years before you became the Superintendent of the Diocese of Sioux City in 2018. Can you tell us one thing that you enjoy about the job and one thing that made the transition difficult?
I enjoy visiting all of my schools and seeing students, teachers, and principals in action. One thing that made the transition difficult was NOT getting to be in a school around kids and teachers every day! I truly miss that relational piece the most.
The COVID pandemic has made life difficult for everyone, but we love to focus on the positive. Can you tell us something that the COVID experience has affected you or your family’s life in a positive way this past year?
As a family, I appreciated the time we got together last spring and summer. As an educator and a leader, the pandemic has definitely taught me a new level of patience!
How did the LEI impact you and your school community when you became a principal in 2014?
The LEI was so good for my team. We realized we were already doing many things well to connect with families in our parish and school, but the LEI helped us become much more methodical in our approach and we learned to prioritize where our efforts would be most helpful for our students and families. One of these was to start a Madrinas program. Further, as a result of increasing enrollment, and two very nice bequests, we ended up building a new school.
You are retiring from being an LEI mentor. What was the best part of being a mentor?
I loved the connections (relationships!) I made with administrators from around the country. I learned just as much from them as they hopefully learned from me.
Before becoming a principal, what was the most unusual or interesting job you've ever had?
I graduated from college with a zoology degree and worked in a pathology lab as a histotechnologist. We processed tissues removed during surgeries for analysis by our pathologist. The pathologist was also the county medical examiner so I occasionally assisted with autopsies as well! But teaching was always something I thought of doing, so eventually, I got engaged and knew I’d be moving back to small town Iowa. And that became the impetus for going back to school and getting my teaching endorsement.
Can you tell us something that might surprise us about you?
I don’t have a creative bone in my body, but have completed scrapbooks for each of my 3 kids from birth until high school graduation. It is excellent therapy.
Who is someone who has been a hero to you and why?
100% my parents. Becoming a parent myself, I realized how challenging it was, and I gained a new appreciation for the unending love and stability they provided me as I grew to an adult, and still provide to this day.
If you could witness any historical event, what would you want to see and why?
Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. Space, and the vastness of it, has always been fascinating to me. When I started teaching middle school science, I had to teach a unit on space. All of my background was in life science so I learned a lot by teaching this topic that was kind of foreign to me. And I became fascinated by it! A couple years after I started teaching, there was a 12-part miniseries on HBO produced by Tom Hanks that explored the origins and milestones of the Apollo lunar landing program that I was obsessed with. What NASA astronauts went through was completely amazing to me. I even bought the DVDs!
What is the best place you've traveled to and why?
Some years ago, my husband and I went on vacation with another couple to St. Martin in the U.S. Virgin Islands. It has some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
Describe yourself at ten years old.
I was a shy, skinny, blonde kid who loved to swim, climb trees, collect baseball cards, and ride my yellow bicycle all over town.
If you could meet anyone in the world, living or deceased, who would it be and why?
Albert Einstein. I would love to catch just a glimpse into that brilliant mind of his.
If you won the lottery today, what would be the first three things you would do with the money?
I would set up an endowment for teacher salaries in our Catholic schools, buy a second home somewhere warm, and a Goldendoodle puppy.
More about Patty Lansink...
Patty Lansink served as the Principal of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Denison, Iowa, from 2011 to 2018. She has 20 years of experience in education at all levels including middle school science teacher and coach, high school counselor, and elementary principal. She spent 15 years in public education, and then six as elementary principal at St. Rose. Patty earned a B.S. in Zoology from Iowa State University and completed her teaching endorsement in science education. She earned an M.S. in Education from Buena Vista University, and completed the Ed.S program at Wayne State University. She attended ACE’s Latino Enrollment Institute in 2014 and the Parental Choice Symposium in New Orleans in 2015. Since starting her position as principal at St. Rose of Lima, Patty saw her school’s enrollment nearly double, to include approximately 75-percent Latino students PK-5. Patty became the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Sioux City in 2018 and has continued to support Latino enrollment efforts in diocesan schools, seven of which have participated in the LEI.
If you're interested in learning how to recruit, enroll, and better serve Latino children in your school, as well as work with an incredible mentor like Patty Lansink, consider joining the LEI!