An Arizona Teacher’s Perspective: Meet Lindsey Petersen

This post was originally published here.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Education Forward Arizona is sharing the perspectives of some of Arizona’s incredible educators. Meet Lindsey Peterson, a 2022 Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year finalist, a Washington Elementary Governing Board member, and an Apollo High School teacher in Glendale with 19 years of experience.

What inspired you to become a teacher? 

I have always loved learning, and initially what drew me to teaching was the opportunity to make learning my job. When I was young, I would come home from school and make my younger siblings play school with me, as I grew older, I loved presenting in class and participating in class discussions. Learning is energizing for me, and I was drawn to that process and that force. However, over time, I have stayed because of the power of education to affect and improve the world. Education gives people opportunities for their future, it opens minds to new possibilities, and it can build bridges and relationships. I truly believe in Nelson Mandela’s words:

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” 

Nelson Mandela

What do you want people to know about teachers or teaching? 

I want people to understand that teaching is a skill and an art. I want people to understand that a successful hour in a teacher’s class is made up of hundreds of decisions that require knowledge, experience, and intentionality. Teaching is so much more than just standing in front of a class and delivering information, and it requires training, practice, mentorship, intelligence, and continued honing of skills. 

Was there a teacher who influenced you?

I am a person who can tell you the name of every single teacher I ever had. Each one has impacted me, and they have collectively shaped me into the teacher that I am today. My husband and I went to the same schools from K-12, and we talk about our teachers all the time: Ms. Machamer our music teacher who encouraged us to donate to the food bank and save our pennies to attend musical theatre events, our gruff but dedicated PE teacher, Coach Watson, our gifted teachers, Mrs. Miles and Mr. Cole who made learning more about the journey than the destination, our middle school ELA teacher, Mr. Peterson who was a little quirky, but a lot dedicated to his craft, and our shared high school teachers who would eventually support us and become our colleagues as we both became educators in the district that raised us. Now I am inspired by the teachers I work with; people who truly put their students first and focus on the opportunities they can provide kids. Teachers have always been a tremendous force in my life, and I am grateful to have had so many wonderful mentors to learn from. 

What inspires you? 

I am inspired by the potential of my students. I have, for my entire career, taught mostly ninth grade, by choice. When freshmen come to high school, they are so wide-eyed and ready to learn. I love seeing them grow from nervous, overwhelmed eighth-graders to more confident, prepared ninth-graders. Being a teacher is an incredibly hopeful job, and I love watching that hope come to fruition. 

What would you tell someone interested in becoming a teacher? 

I would tell them that it is an exhausting, difficult job, but is also one of the most meaningful professions that exists. I would encourage them to identify their “why” and to revisit it often. This year, I have spent time asking fellow educators to define their “why” or to answer the question “Why do you teach?” I have loved hearing the answers of fellow educators and hearing their perspectives on education. My why has changed through the years, but it still helps keep me focused and driven in what I do. 

What are some of the best things people can do to show appreciation to teachers this week?

I told my students the best thing they could do was to get their essays turned in this week, on time, so I could grade them! But honestly, any recognition is so appreciated. I have a file in my desk of student, colleague and parent notes that have been given to me over the years, and there have been many times when at the end of a rough day, I have randomly grabbed a handful of those notes, read through them and felt empowered to keep at it. A heartfelt note of appreciation is a kind gift that keeps on giving.  

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