Selfless Hearts

Denton ISD's ninth middle school named after UNT alumna.
Written by: 
Brittney Dear
Pat Cheek
Pat Cheek ('65)

The same day she was given her second vaccine shot, Pat Cheek ('65) received a text message from her oldest son, Billy, who informed her that he'd be visiting that evening to ensure she didn't experience any negative side effects.

Her other children decided to visit as well and brought over dinner for what Cheek thought was a casual family event. Then, Charles Stafford, a family friend of theirs, called with some news.

He said Denton ISD's ninth middle school would be named after her as the Pat Hagan Cheek Middle School. Her children, having known ahead of time, watched as Cheek reacted with complete bewilderment, and they proceeded to celebrate, this being the main reason they had visited.

"I was completely taken aback," Cheek says. "I'm excited."

Pat Hagan Cheek Middle School is set to be built by fall 2022, and the distinction honors Cheek's decades of teaching in Denton schools and volunteering for the Denton community. There will be a grand opening ceremony.

"Being named after a middle school is an incredible honor," Cheek says. Having several alumni in the family, UNT had always been in Cheek's mind. When her husband, Bill Cheek ('59) graduated from UNT, she decided to transfer there from Texas Woman's University in pursuit of a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in Spanish. With kids at home, she was unable to participate in extracurricular activities, yet this didn't stop her from having an enjoyable time. She especially loved her English professor, Dr. Gerald Kirk.

"Dr. Kirk was just so fun and very informative, and he made my day. He made every class fun."

After UNT, Cheek served at Denton Junior High as a student teacher. Regardless of not having taken any history classes, she taught American and Texas history her first year, and Spanish and English her second year. Then, Cheek found out she was pregnant with her third child.

"You couldn't teach when you were pregnant," Cheek says. "I had to leave mid-term, and substituted 14 years in between. I got to know a lot of students and in fact, I was their favorite substitute teacher."

When she returned to full-time teaching, after having waited for her fourth child to go into third grade, Cheek landed a position at Northwest ISD. In 2002, she retired. She went on to volunteer at Strickland Middle School, where she tutored special education students, and Calhoun Middle School, where she mentored troubled girls.

"I started volunteering as early as elementary school," Cheek says. "If a teacher needed something, I would do it."

Cheek is currently on the Salvation Army board and assists with Giving Hope, an organization that tries to help people find housing, and the women's shelter Friends of the Family. She also helped with the formation of the Denton Interracial Fellowship, an organization that assisted with the integration of Black communities and accomplished many milestones for Denton's Black community, such as building new roads for poorer communities and building relationships between white and Black women. Thanks to Cheek, women from each race seek out a "twin" from the other race that they share similarities with by asking 10 questions to one another. In turn, the women create everlasting bonds.

"My biggest uptake on the fellowship was lasting friendships with people of color that I probably wouldn't have known otherwise," Cheek says. "My twin and I are still good friends."