Stephanie Peterson, Calibre Academy


It was all smiles this week when Javier Soto surprised another well-deserving 2nd grade teacher, Ms. Stephanie Peterson at Calibre Academy with the Silver Apple award.

Each year 8 teachers are honored for their excellence in education with this great award and are given $500 for use in their classroom. Current student William nominated Ms. Peterson and credits her for "teaching me how to read and write. I can write five paragraphs now." William suffers from a medical condition that causes him to forget things continually. He has had to relearn how to read and write many times, but with Ms. Peterson's help he has progressed in his learning and is able to keep up with his classmates.

The passion Ms. Peterson shares for education and teaching came later in life but is her true calling. We asked her to share some of her experiences with us.

Why did you decide to get into teaching?

I worked in a dental x-ray lab for most of my life and on the weekends I would teach Sunday school at church. Even though I loved the people I worked with, I realized I loved my weekend service more than my weekday job. A friend of min suggested that I go back to school to get my degree so I would have the opportunity to do what I love as a full time job. I took her advice and my teaching career was born.

What is your favorite teaching moment?

That is so hard to answer because there are so many things that can fall into this category. It's always fantastic when you teach a new concept and the kids pick up on an aspect of it you didn't expect them to get so soon as they run with it. Or when you have students who are struggling with a concept in math or reading and they finally get it, that sense of joy and pride that comes across their face is priceless

How did you feel when you realized you won the Silver Apple Award?

I think I was in shock for a while. I couldn't believe I was receiving such an honor from one of my students. It was a truly humbling experience to see myself through the eyes of one of my students. I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to teach and to help my students get what they need to be successful and productive.

What do you plan on doing with the $500 grant?

Well, this year my class studied England for our school's International Festival and we talked about how much it would cost for all of us to travel to England for a field trip. Once of my students suggested that I should save the money for our trip. :) Realistically, it will go towards books and supplies my class needs to take their learning to the next level.

What is one of your best practices in the classroom?

The first best practice that comes to mind is consistency. One of the keys I learned from my mentor teacher when I was student teaching was you have to maintain a consistent routine in the classroom if you hope to have your students meet and exceed your expectations. I have learned that modeling and implementing from day one what I expect from my students both in academics and in behavior if vital for a successful school year. Chaos does not lend itself to solid learning, so having a consistent routine my class can depend on allows me to provide them with an optimum learning environment.

What advice would you give to new teachers?

I have met several teachers who got into the profession with the mentality that it's an 8:00 to 3:00 job with summers off and lots of breaks. Many of them left the profession within a year of two of getting started because they realized that it's much harder than it seems. I would just tell any new teacher starting out to make sure they really do love working with children because they are very perceptive and will pick up on it if you don't. Teaching is an enormous responsibility and if you get into it thinking teachers have good hours and get to play with kids all day, you'll be in for a huge shock by the end of the first week of school. I know that sounds simple but when you are putting in the extra hours during the week, working on your weekends and working through your breaks trying to create the best learning experience you can it is that love for your students and the joy at seeing them succeed that will pull you through!

What was the greatest life lesson you've learned through your teaching experience that has affected your personal life?

When you work with a group of children you see early on that they may all be seven or eight years old but they all need something different from you. Trying my best to provide what each child needs everyday has definitely allowed me to stretch and grow as a person. I was never an outgoing person when I was younger but when you work with kids you have to put yourself out there to be their leader and their comic relief when they need it. Stepping outside of the limitations I placed on myself is something I never would have done before I became a teacher.

Congratulations to Ms. Peterson for her excellence in education and thank you for making a difference in the lives of Arizona's future leaders.