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Sewickley Academy welcomes new director

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
New Director of Teaching and Learning Patty Butz poses for a photo at Sewickley Academy Thursday, July 11, 2013. Butz, who came from the American School in Japan, began her position at Sewickley Academy July 1.
Kristina Serafini | Sewickley Herald
New Director of Teaching and Learning Patty Butz poses for a photo at Sewickley Academy Thursday, July 11, 2013. Butz, who came from the American School in Japan, began her position at Sewickley Academy July 1.

Patty Butz is returning to U.S. classrooms after teaching abroad for several years.

Butz, 66, is this month starting her new role as director of teaching and learning at Sewickley Academy. She previously served as director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at the American School in Japan and taught in India and Saudia Arabia for many years.

Sewickley Academy is similar to the school where she taught in Japan, she said.

“That's what attracted me to the academy,” Butz said.

The school in Japan has twice as many students as the academy, but the socioeconomics of the students are similar.

“I like that it is a pre-K through 12th-grade institution, which I found out is somewhat rare in the U.S. And, this school has such a rich history — 175 years is incredible. It's a very accomplished and highly regarded institution,” Butz said. “I'm honored to be here and eager to start work.”

Replacing the late Claudia Gallant, who served as associate head of school for academic affairs, Butz said it is part of her job to “get everyone at the school asking what are we doing, and how can we do it better.

“My job will be to work on the structure and systems that are in place so we can answer those questions and do everything we can to cause learning to happen.”

Head of School Kolia O'Connor said Butz has a strong track record of leading change in schools.

“Patty possesses a perfect blend of educational and administrative experiences and expertise to support the academy as we further our commitment to improve our practices, to becoming a model school for the 21st century,” he said.

Prior to her work in Japan, Butz served as curriculum coordinator at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India, and as a middle school English teacher and curriculum coordinator art the Saudi Arabian International School in Riyadh. The schools enrolled American students who mostly were living in foreign countries for a short time.

During 43 years of marriage, Butz and her husband, Dennis, a math teacher, taught in the same schools.

They have lived overseas since 1973 except for four years in Maryland when Butz gave birth to their sons, now in their 20s.

The couple also originally had lived in Maryland in the 1970s when they both decided it would be fun to teach overseas, said Butz, who earned a bachelor's degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University.

At the time, she was attending Salisbury University in Maryland, where she earned her master's degree in English. While there, she noticed a flyer on the bulletin board with information about an organization that placed international teachers.

It wasn't long after when she and her husband began teaching in the same American school in Iran.

The couple took an extended vacation and after they returned, Butz applied for the academy job.

Her husband is planning to secure a substitute teaching position once they move into a Sewickley home.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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