Courtesy of Ms. Peterson
Endless essay analysis and infamous phone quizzes — pop quizzes that are given when a student would mischievously take out their phone in the middle of class — are just a few of the defining characteristics of long-time teacher Ms. Peterson’s class. After thirty years of dedication, the beloved English teacher has made her mark at Coral Gables Senior High in an unforgettable way.
After proudly watching her students graduate and move forward to the next phase in their life, Ms. Peterson is finally turning a page in her own life and retiring this school year.
Although her passion for literature seems to be one she has had for a lifetime, Ms. Peterson did not begin her college career by majoring in education. The inspiration to pursue teaching was one that arose later in life.
Ms. Peterson’s appreciation for the arts is what drew her to the classroom. Beginning at a young age, she took ballet lessons from high-achieving ballet instructors, including Martha Mahr and Thomas Armour. She also attended lessons at the prestigious Joffrey Ballet Company in New York, a dance company famous for their Romeo and Juliet Ballet as well as their Nutcracker showcase. Not surprisingly, her passion for the arts continued through college; she majored in theater, speech and English while minoring in education.
“The classroom is a stage in which the teacher performs to capture students’ attention so that they can process and retain the information presented,” Ms. Peterson said.
After realizing that teaching was similar to performing on a stage, Ms. Peterson earned her first job as a teacher of Speech and English at Miami Country Day School. Soon after that, she made Gables her second home.
Over the course of 30 years, she has seen the school grow not only in size but academically. She believes that Gables is now a competitive high school that attracts a diverse group of bright students through the various programs offered here, who can excel and be admitted to prestigious colleges.
At Gables, Ms. Peterson has taught a variety of courses from regular English and Language Arts to Scholastic Aptitude Test Prep courses to, her favorite, Advanced Placement English Language and Composition. Though it was difficult for her to choose which class she liked teaching the most, AP Language stands out to her for its rigorous requirements and ultimate benefits.
After years of teaching the course, Ms. Peterson knows exactly what kind of preparation her students need in order to pass the AP Exam with high scores. Her 30-minute timed practice essays are often dreaded by her students as it forces them to fly through a complex writing prompt so quickly that it often causes hand cramps. However, there is always a method to the so-called madness.
Ms. Peterson’s technique has been proven to be effective, as shown by the consistently high scores that her students receive on exams. Despite the initial complaints of her students, on the day of the test, all her pupils walk out of the exam room grateful for her writing tactics.
“Over the course of the year, Ms. Peterson had us write a number of essays in what felt like a very short amount of time. I complained in private and vehemently denied her claims that I would thank her by the end of the year. And yet, I find myself doing exactly that. Because of the time constraint we practiced with for 9 months, I was able to take the AP Lang test comfortably and confidently. I am grateful towards Ms. Peterson and her persistence, even in the midst of a hundred frustrated teenagers,” sophomore Marina Devine said.
In the same way that students will miss her, Ms. Peterson will miss many of her students. Every year she says goodbye to her tenth-grade students, wishing them success in the years to come. This year, her final year at Gables, saying goodbye to the students she has seen flourish and grow feels bittersweet.
Her students are not the only ones who will miss her; faculty and staff share the same bittersweet feeling. Among them is Mrs. Vazquezbello, English Language Arts teacher at Gables. Working in the same department, the two have shared many wonderful moments throughout lunch breaks and department meetings.
“She is a great colleague, and she is always willing to lend a helping hand. My favorite memories with her have been when we get together as a department. Her sense of humor is awesome, and she is very fun to be around,” Ms. Vazquezbello said.
Like many teachers this year, teaching through a screen has not been easy. Ms. Peterson feels that ending her career on a virtual note has been both interesting and challenging; she prefers performing her art of teaching to a live, in-person audience.
Her energetic teaching style will surely be missed by all Gables students who had the privilege of being her student and colleagues who look up to her commitment to her profession. The Gables family wishes Ms. Peterson happiness on her new journey into retirement and hopes that she continues to take her exuberant spirit wherever she goes.