Dover twins put value in education

Erica, left, and Heather Patosky, right, pose for a photo.

DOVER — For the Patosky sisters, the importance of education is something that has been instilled in them since their childhood.

At 28, the twin sisters have eight degrees between them — from associate’s up to a doctorate.

Erica and Heather, born and raised in Dover, both had the importance of education ingrained in them from a young age.

After completing high school, the sisters pursued associate’s degrees at Delaware Technical Community College — Heather in marketing and general business, Erica in nursing. Both then went on to get their bachelor’s and master’s in their fields at Wilmington University. Erica just completed her doctorate in nursing practice at Wilmington.

“My dad always embedded in my brain that education was important,” Erica said. “Once you have a degree nobody can ever take that away from you.”

Heather said their father taught for 30 years, from being an adjunct professor at DelTech, to an educator serving incarcerated students, to a teacher of middle and elementary school.

“I think it really just kind of showed me the importance of education,” she said, adding her mother was also a big influence.

“She made a lot of sacrifices for me and my sister, and she ended up going back to school for her degree as well. So just seeing the grit that both my parents had when it comes to education really just instilled it in us.”

Though the two went on different trajectories for their academics, they both pursued higher education within Delaware.

“I always knew I wanted to go to Delaware Tech just because I just didn’t want to have a lot of outstanding student loans,” Heather said. “I really liked the whole community aspect of community colleges and I just wanted to stay closer to home.”

Erica agreed, noting that when she graduated high school, the SEED scholarship was being offered at DelTech, which made getting their associate’s degrees debt-free.

After getting her associate’s, Erica began work at ChristianaCare as a nurse, and Christiana supported employees going back to school. After completing her master’s, Erica served as assistant manager in the ICU.

“I really liked that, but I felt like the position was very disconnected from patients. I was moreso administration and not in patient care,” she said.

She went back for her post-master’s certificate, which led her to a family nurse practitioner role in Dover.

Erica, left, and Heather Patosky, right, have have eight degrees between them, from their associate’s to Erica’s recently completed doctorate.

Now, she considers herself done with school. “It was a really big goal of mine to have that,” she said. “It was just a personal goal I set for myself. I wanted to go all the way, and that’s what I did.”

An internship that Heather completed at the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce turned into a job after she completed her bachelor’s degree. She took a break from schooling as she settled into her new role, before returning for her MBA.

With her tuition-free associate’s degrees, and her father supporting her bachelor’s degree, her largest financial commitment to her education was her master’s.

“I really prioritized college,” Heather said. “It was one of the biggest things that I knew I wanted to do. So I just knew that I was OK with taking out a student loan just because I knew, with the long run, it would be more beneficial for me long term for my career.”

While she has always had a passion for business, going through her education journey — with plans to eventually head back for her doctorate — she also found a passion for teaching. She now works as an adjunct professor for the business department at DelTech.

“It makes me, I think, better capable and more able to relate so much to my students just because I’ve been there,” she said.

She recalled, while she was getting her bachelor’s degree, some mornings where she would be getting to work at 5 a.m. for her retail job to set up for a 9 a.m. opening, before heading to her internship in the afternoon, then working at a restaurant in the evenings, before going to class or completing work online.

“So I just know. I can see the tired faces sometimes in the evenings. Just seeing that they’re able to still participate and put their best foot forward, it’s shown me how much we’re all kind of in similar situations,” she said.

“I’ve had a class where I’ve had students who are 18 and I’ve had students who are 60. You get a whole wealth of knowledge and a whole wealth of different backgrounds of people. I’m able to learn from them every night that I teach, so I just don’t take anything for granted.”

For Erica, who finished her doctorate as the coronavirus pandemic took shape in the state, her classes felt immediately applicable to her field.

“I think the biggest thing that actually really hit home recently was in the doctorate classes they basically prepare you for the big projects that you’re going to ultimately end up right in,” she said.

“The classes really prepared me for real life issues that we’re dealing with right now. I think when people think about school, they think that some of these classes aren’t real, they’re not going to prepare you for real life, but I’m here to say it absolutely did and it will.”