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#WhyIChoseEducation: ‘There’s Something About People Who Are in The Education Field Becoming Strong Leaders’ Says Robin Pate ’91

When Wake Technical Community College Athletic Director Robin Pate ’91 was an undergraduate student at NC State, he knew he had a passion for teaching and coaching. That passion caused him to switch his major from civil engineering to science education and to apply for a job as a manager for the Wolfpack Women’s basketball team, through which he met former Coach Kay Yow.

“She had this incredible ability not to see people for who they were but for who they could become,” Pate said. “And I’m so thankful she saw me that way. She didn’t see me as a manager. She saw me as somebody who could be a coach, who could be a leader.”

Pate would spend the next 17 years working with Yow, moving up to graduate assistant coach, assistant coach and director of women’s basketball operations. After Yow passed in 2009, Pate took a position with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. 

“She was such a great person,” Pate said. “She always said if her life was measured by wins and losses, what a great loss that would be. She wanted to be seen as a person that helped people get to where they wanted to be.”

Throughout Pate’s career, he has worked to do the same, and it’s what inspired him to take the athletic director position at Wake Technical Community College. Education and coaching, Pate said, go hand-in-hand.

“I wanted to mentor student athletes, mentor some young coaches as well,” Pate said. “I felt I could really bring something to the table.”

Pate’s time in the College of Education, he said, has prepared him for his current role. 

“I have a lot of things that I want to put in place here at Wake Tech,” Pate said. “It’s a step-by-step process. That’s something that I was able to learn how to do when I learned how to do lesson plans. I know how to do practice plans; I know how to do strategic planning — all of those leadership pieces really got started when I was at NC State.”

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Why I Chose Education:

I wanted to hone my gifts. I really wanted to become a better communicator and I feel like that happened by being in the College of Education. I’m comfortable and confident speaking in front of large groups, but leadership style is a big piece of this as well — leadership styles and techniques that I was able to pick up while I was at NC State.

When I look at some of my best leaders, Coach Yow was an English education major. She was going to be a librarian and ended up being a Hall of Fame coach. My CEO that I was working for at the Kay Yow Cancer Fund was an education major. The CEO I was working with before had been the vice president at the NCAA, but she was also an education major in college. 

There’s something about people who are in the education field becoming strong leaders, with their ability to connect with people, with their ability to teach people and to coach people to get on the same track.

How Education Shaped Me:

I use things that I learn daily. I enjoy being a mentor to young men and women in the direction and the path they want to go. I feel like I have a way of connecting with them to find out what they really want to do. I’m in a great place here. They’re only here for two years, maybe three; I have a great opportunity to help shape and direct them in the path that they want to go, whether it’s to go into a four-year college or go into the workforce. I’m able to kind of hone those styles and techniques of leadership and mentoring, and that’s something that I feel has shaped me greatly. I have never met a stranger; I enjoy connecting with people and a lot of that is what I learned while it was there at NC State. 

What I Enjoyed Most About the College of Education:

One of the things that I really realized when I got into my education major is that the professors knew how to teach. There’s a difference between knowing and knowing how to teach. 

The professors knew how to get the most out of us. It made learning fun, when you felt like they’re sharing something with you that’s important to them and that’s going to help you for life. 

Another thing is the collaboration. The College of Education was very collaborative. I was in science education, but I was spending time with math education students as well. It made my time there very fulfilling. I didn’t feel like I was on an island. I felt like I had others around me and I had help, just building and growing together.

What Others Should Know About the College of Education:

When I was walking across campus as a freshman, before I was a freshman or when I was working, I felt like I could always speak to people. I felt like it was a great environment, overall, a great place to be. I really felt like I had the opportunity for very strong individual attention as well. Sometimes you have to ask for it. Sometimes you have to seek it. But it was always there for me. 

You have a chance to decide what’s important to you as a person, as a teacher, as a leader, in my case as a coach, but some of the things that are important to me are accountability and passion and belief and trust. And I’m certainly not perfect in all those areas. But those are things that I aspire to be. I really feel like that was available to me, to have the freedom to do that while I was at NC State. 

What Inspires Me:

Being able to see Coach Yow, being able to see some of my professors when I was at NC State and some people on campus, find their passion and lead from their gifts — that’s really what I kind of aspire to do.

When I think back to some of my professors, I might walk into their office to see they’re reading; they’re still learning. I would walk into Coach Yow’s office, and she would be watching a video of somebody teaching something. 

Learning is a lifelong process. I just gave my coaches a book, “You Win in the Locker Room First,” a couple of weeks ago and told them they have homework. I need them to read the book that I gave to them, and I always want people to continue to grow because I want them to continue to be better teachers and better coaches of our student athletes. We have a responsibility to them.