Teacher Appreciation Week Spotlight: Andrea and Matt Padgett

Andrea (‘12, ‘15) and Matt (‘16) Padgett serve side by side as health and physical education teachers at Fuquay-Varina Middle School. Their relationship began at Campbell, and their passion and aptitude for educating students developed during their time with the School of Education. 

After meeting through intramural sports and eventually working together for Campus Recreation, the couple’s relationship was established on quality time, friendship and a love for sports. 

Though it wasn’t your typical “meet cute…” 

I met Matt a year and a half before he met me,” Andrea states. The now-married couple played on an extramural flag football team together in 2013, Matt as a quarterback and Andrea as a wide receiver. “I caught touchdown passes from him, we high fived throughout the whole game.” They were even in a picture together (albeit, so far apart, Andrea says Matt could be cropped out with ease).

However, at the beginning of the 2014 academic year, Andrea recalls seeing Matt again at a mutual friend’s house: “I welcomed him with a very warm ‘haven’t-seen-you-in-forever’ hug, and he played along. And then, come to find out, he had no idea who I was.”

Fortunately, that misstep did not keep the two from developing a lasting relationship. In fact, even though in Matt’s mind he was embracing a stranger, he reflects, “I knew when we hugged, she was the one.” Nonetheless, seeing as they are health and PE teachers and coaches, it’s too bad their story didn’t start with love-at-first-touchdown-reception. 

In the midst of their love story, Andrea and Matt were pursuing degrees in health and physical education with K-12 teacher licensure. 

Andrea knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher, having early experience teaching children about healthy lifestyle choices. In high school, she took a class called PEPI (Physical Education Pupil Instructor), which involved health and PE lesson planning and delivery for elementary schoolers. “It was insane,” Andrea smiles, “I’m wrangling kindergarteners, they’re screaming, having so much fun. And I just loved it.” 

She knew at that point she had to find a school that offered health and PE with teacher licensure. 

Matt took a less direct path to education, but reflects and sees it was all in God’s plan. He began at Campbell as a business major (which he says is “hilarious” looking back). He always knew he wanted to coach, but it wasn’t until his sophomore year that he recalls receiving what God was calling him to be. “From there,” Matt says, “He’s provided every step of the way.” 

“To be honest,” Matt states, “When I was making the switch to education, I was really just focused on coaching.” A conversation with faculty member, Donna Woolard changed that perception. “She made it very clear that I was a teacher first.” After that, Matt truly began to understand and appreciate the curriculum and content, and developed a passion for teaching. “The content we teach is so important.” 

Andrea and Matt can still point to specific classes and professors that had a lasting impact on them as educators. Even when education majors are learning about the content, they are also picking up on teaching skills and methods from professors. Andrea and Matt recall Dr. Jennifer Bunn’s authority, confidence, structure and mastery. Dr. Kymm Ballard’s creativity, passion and love for students. Dr. Donna Woolard’s overall air of “legend-status.”  

Andrea summarizes, “We learned a lot from our professors on how to be teachers without them actually teaching us pedagogy.” 

After graduating and getting married, the Padgetts each worked at several different schools in multiple counties and cities, but ultimately ended up at Fuquay-Varina Middle School. 

Not only do they love the community of their school, Matt and Andrea especially enjoy working together every day. They ride to work together, eat lunch together, plan together. They even share a classroom. 

Recently, Andrea was named the health and PE department chair, overseeing the department budget, events and communication with administration. Most of all through her role, Andrea strives for the department and field to be respected by the school, administration and parents. Andrea and Matt understand that test results are valued, but believe we also need to focus on the whole child: their mental health, social skills, relationship development and physical health.  

“We know that a child is not just numbers on a report card. That’s not their worth.” 

Now more than ever, people are recognizing the importance of emotional, social and physical health. Andrea and Matt are on a mission to ensure that every child feels important, valued and safe in their classroom. 

Dr. Ballard, one of Andrea and Matt’s mentors and professors, reflects on her experience with the Padgetts: “I had the pleasure of watching this young couple begin their love story. As they began their journey on the road to teaching, both kept their focus on their studies but never let each other down along the way.” She goes on to say, “It is no surprise that they are together now, teaching and supporting each other every day in their work-life also.” 

A lot of life has happened since their first meeting (and, well, second first meeting): marriage, multiple schools, a few moves, a baby boy. But they continue to build on the lessons and values learned at Campbell, striving to serve their students with compassion, understanding, structure and (maybe most importantly), fun.

How it started:
Matt: left, Andrea: third from right, 2013
How it’s going:
Matt, Andrea and Luke, 2022