Nominated by her sweet husband, Scott Peterson:
My wife is an EDUCATOR to her core, or more accurately, her heart. She still gets into school early, is out late, and then grades homework or works on special projects. For over 30 years, her focus on a quality education for her class is still paramount. She is often asked to be on district committees or to open her classroom to a visiting group of education dignitary’s from all over the world. She is humble, but not afraid to fight for the quality of her classroom. If you need a student’s opinion of her work, there are three generations to pick from. Recently a 10+ year graduate made a point of sending her a “thank you” letter for her impact on his life while in her class. The list of reasons "why" she should be K103’s Educator of the Week could go on and on by me and so many others. Her impact on our family life, with two daughters can be complimented as well. I can handle the Wife of the Week acknowledgement.
Congratulations Cathy, from all of us at K103!
What inspired you to become an educator?
My mother was my inspiration. She and my father raised 9 children (me being the youngest) and it was from her that I learned my best teaching qualities of compassion, organization, patience, confidence, dedication to excellence and a passion for life. Growing up, I was always around children (lots of nieces and nephews) and tons of babysitting jobs. Yes, I even used to play “school” when I was young and I loved to be the “teacher.” When I went off to college, still not sure what I wanted to do in my life, I took a business class and a child development class. It was very quickly obvious to me that the business world was not for me, but that children were! Thus, I made my major Elementary Education, and the rest is history!
What do you like most about teaching?
There are many parts of teaching that I enjoy, but probably the best is when I get to observe students learn something new. Seeing that “light bulb” go on is amazing! This is true not only of the advanced student who discovers new ways to solve a math problem, but also the struggling student who figures out that the words on the page that he or she is reading finally have meaning and a whole new world of learning opens up for them. I love hearing a student say “This was fun,” or “Wow, I had no idea,” or “I just learned something new today!”
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
When I started teaching 31 years ago, education was very different. I do believe, however that the changes, for the most part, are positive. Yes, my class size is larger(I have 35 fifth graders this year) and that is more challenging than ever, but there are also changes that are good ones. There are better teaching practices in place now than ever. The standards for students to meet are much higher, also. As a teacher, I feel that I have more tools and teaching skills for getting all of my students to learn at a better rate than ever. Research has helped in this area greatly. There are more direct instructional practices that make my job of teaching many levels and learning styles easier. I remember the days early in my career when I would teach a lesson and “hope” that everyone got it, knowing full well that some “missed” the learning. Then it was hours of “back pedaling” to “catch up” those we missed. Today, teaching is so much better with more direct instruction to fit all learning styles and ways to get to all students where they need to be.
Having higher standards is also something that I think is better. I’m always amazed at what 5th graders are supposed to be able to do and accomplish today. It is, by far, much more demanding and complicated than when I first started teaching in 1983. I often have to remind parents that what their child has to be proficient at these days is more than they ever had to know in their 5th grade year. This being said, I can also say that the 5th graders of today are stepping up to the challenges and meeting the new standards with better skills.
What would you like parents to know about your job?
I would love for parents to know that I am an educator, and I love what I do! Teaching 35 students (in all areas-math, reading, writing, social studies, science, etc.) is challenging on a day to day basis just trying to attend to every child and their social, emotional and academic needs. I am always working to make sure that their child is not only learning about academics, but about life in general. Much of each day is spent working on organizational skills, self-esteem, compassion, cooperation, time management, responsibility and even manners. I am a parent too, and want them to know that I care for their child every moment that they are with me in school. When parents and teachers work together, the child is the center of attention and will always benefit from teamwork and the love of both!
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
After teaching for 31 years, I’ve been blessed to have many former students who have returned for one reason or another. Just this September, during Open House at school, I was greeting all of the students and their parents in my room, when I noticed a couple with 2 young boys standing there waiting for a turn at my attention. I quickly noticed that neither of the boys were students in my class as they looked younger than 5th graders. When I looked at the parents, there was something in the father’s eyes that made me take another look. It was then that he spoke up and asked, “Do you remember me?”
Now, for most teachers, this can be a difficult question, as the longer we teach, the more students there are that have passed through our doors, and the shorter our memories get! Not wanting to get it wrong, I sheepishly asked his name, and was not surprised that I totally remembered who he was. In fact, my mind went right back to the days when he was in my 5th grade class, and I told him that indeed, I remembered him, and I was curious why he was in my class this night. He assured me that his boys were not in my 5th grade class this year, but that he was looking forward to the day when they would be.
Before I could ask him how he was and what he was up to these days, he quickly said, “Can I have a hug?” Well, of course we hugged, and then he went on to introduce me to his wife and two boys. He had remembered that I was always a “hugger” and I was so touched that he grown into a fine adult who wasn’t afraid to hug his 5th grade teacher. To say the least, I told him I’d be here for his children when they got older, and that I looked forward to the day when we would be “partners” in his children’s education.
I’ve also taught other former students’ children and lots of families with multiple children. I continue to keep in touch with many and even have had former students do their student teaching time with me before they become teachers themselves. Just before Christmas, I even got a wonderful email from a former student(20 years ago) who is now living in Missouri. He just wanted me to know what a wonderful influence I had on his life as a 5th grader in my class. He wasn’t sure that I knew since he moved away from Tualatin shortly after 5th grade, and even though his life was difficult, he was doing well now.
It is stories such as these that really remind me that what I do matters in this world. I am often humbled by any attention I get, since being a teacher is never quite so glamorous as being a movie star or something, but recognitions such as this really do make me feel like a “rock star” sometimes.