Being a third-grade teacher isn’t easy. Tripping over lunch boxes, learning to cope with the sound of erasers squeaking against paper, trying to quiet down a classroom of rowdy eight-year-olds after lunchtime, staying after school to grade assignments, and eternally smelling pencil shavings and Expo markers: this is the reality of those that have decided to enter into the field of elementary education. Such is the life of BYU graduate and third-grade teacher Lisa Peterson.
Peterson began her journey as an educator at Weber State University, where she received her associate’s degree. She graduated from BYU’s David O. McKay School of Education in 2015 in early childhood education. When asked how she decided on elementary education, Peterson stated, “I chose to study early childhood education because I was fascinated with young children and how they develop socially.”
Peterson was able to get a feel for what elementary education was like through the extra volunteering that she did during her time at BYU. Peterson explains, “I did my best to network and introduce myself to as many teachers and administrators as I could. Those things helped my confidence and provided me with wonderful experiences!” It was her extra volunteering in a variety of grades that made her realize that she liked third grade the most.
Much of the networking Peterson did was initiated by an on-campus job she had at the BYU Child and Family Studies Lab. This position shaped how she approaches teaching. She reflects on her time there by saying, “I learned all about what it means to be developmentally appropriate and how to more effectively teach and interact with students. Being in those classrooms allowed me to see how amazing teaching can be and what good teaching looks like.”
It was also at the BYU Child and Family Studies Lab where she met Jenni Whitlock, who works at Fox Hollow Elementary school in Lehi, Utah. Whitlock served as an excellent resource to Peterson and even introduced her to the principal. Through their friendship, the road to Peterson’s first job was paved and being a teacher didn’t seem quite so intimidating.
Now, as a third-grade teacher at Fox Hollow Elementary School, Peterson strives to enhance her students’ learning experience in every possible way. She says, “Our main goal is to educate our students and give them skills they need to succeed in life, but a second, just as important goal is to make learning fun and instill that excitement in kids.”
One way Peterson accomplishes these goals is through incorporating the use of technology in the classroom. iPads are used every day for extra practice, fun rewards, and as engagement tools for the kids. Peterson’s classroom also has a SMART Board that is used daily and a cart of Chromebooks that is used multiple times a week.
Peterson has found that the best way to fully commit to her students inside the classroom is by finding balance in her personal life outside the classroom. She states, “There is always going to be more to do, so you have to set a limit for yourself.” For Peterson, her “limit” is going home every day at 4:00 p.m. and doing her best not to take work home with her. Instead, she works out, reads books, listens to music, cooks, and spends time with her husband.
After a long day in the classroom, Peterson returns home feeling tired, yet fulfilled. It’s not an easy task to create an exciting, engaging atmosphere within the classroom every day—but the love Peterson has for teaching encourages her to create that environment for the children.
Writer: Hannah Antillon
Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562