Ms. Erica Peterson is a second-generation educator, who drew significant inspiration from her father’s teaching and coaching career. As Bradford Academy’s AP Psychology, Psychology, AP US History, and US History teacher, she finds her passion in helping students reach their potential.
“As educators, we are only aware of a small part of our students’ journey and growth,” said Erica. “It’s like Nelson Henderson said: ‘the true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.’ I consider it an honor and a privilege to plant seeds in each inquiring young mind that crosses my classroom threshold. Each student brings their own unique experiences, gifts and talents to the table. My job is to empower them to grow, to think about the world in ways they’ve never imagined, and to encourage them to ultimately become their best selves.”
Through vulnerability and truth shared about her humanity, students in Ms. Peterson’s class learn that success is not found in perfection, but in progress and perseverance. Her genuine concern for student well-being has given her the reputation as a mentor, as well as a teacher. Handling many obstacles with goofiness and grace, students realize there is nothing they cannot attain and nothing they must face alone.
Fighting through the obstacles
When it comes to teaching, her father is her true inspiration and her biggest cheerleader. He was an educator for more than forty years and ended his tenure as a special education teacher at Bradford Academy.
Ms. Peterson joined the Choice family before her father. He became known as “Ms. Peterson’s dad.” Sharing their passion for education and positively impacting kids’ lives is something that both father and daughter will forever cherish.
Mr. Peterson retired in 2016, but his golden years were short-lived. He died suddenly in June of 2017, leaving his family with shattered hearts.
Despite her grief, Ms. Peterson tries to carry on by living her life the way her father did: full of joy, passion and tenacity. She is also honoring his legacy, along with other colleagues and family members, by constructing a student library and school store at Bradford: The Donald L. Peterson Memorial Library.
“Spreading school spirit and bolstering students’ love of reading is truly a work of heart. My father would have loved this,” Erica said with a few tears rolling down her cheeks.
Rooted in authenticity and warmth
Ms. Peterson strives to be a servant leader and be a role model for her students on a daily basis. Rooted in authenticity and warmth, you will scarcely find her room empty. Indeed, her prep, lunch and after school time are often spent assisting students in any capacity she is able.
“You need to allow your mess to become your message,” said Erica. “When you have the courage to share your truth, others will, in turn, realize their story is worth telling. Many students in high school struggle with confidence and self-image. What a joy it is to see them internalize what I’ve known all along: that they are capable, talented, anointed, and finally, that they are enough, just as they are.”
As the high school’s psychology teacher, questions and confessions relating to mental health are often entrusted with her.
Without exception, students are met with a listening ear, unconditional positive regard, and honest feedback.
“If you truly listen to your students and build connections with them, they will inform your practice as you create it,” said Erica. “I have had the privilege of building entire courses based on student interest and relish in the fact that they have left my class with the knowledge and compassion that will fuel their success.
Throughout the years, the needs of her students have always remained her number one priority.
Her role on Bradford Hiring Team called the I*We team is rooted in building a positive school culture that embraces every student in the Bradford Academy family.
“A school is a community,” Erica said. “We must all work in concert to encourage the success of our students. Even though my role in their journey is small, my heart will always soar with theirs.”
Peterson is someone who inspires and encourages students to strive for greatness, live up to their full potential and see the best in all things. Her rigorous educational curriculum combined with her dynamic spirit make her someone students are drawn to, someone they learn from and someone who makes a difference.
Undoubtedly, the feeling is mutual. Ms. Peterson considers Bradford Academy a second home, whose students are forever etched in her heart.