Profile and photos by Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
Zoe Pehrson grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She loved school as a child and particularly loved third grade. Her parents both still live in the Bay Area as does her sister. Her mom is an environmental consultant with her own business and her father is a retired IT specialist.
Pehrson grew up swimming and skiing and participated in a public speaking program during high school. She attended Whitman College in a small town in eastern Washington, where she studied politics, worked as a resident advisor and made life-long friends. She studied abroad her junior year of college in Madagascar.
After college, Pehrson moved to Denver, CO to begin her teaching career at Cole Elementary School. After three years of teaching third grade, she moved to Michigan to be with her long-time boyfriend Will, who is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan. She says she was lucky to get a job at “the amazing” Pittsfield Elementary where she has taught fourth grade for two years and now teaches second. (Principal Carol Shakarian says Pittsfield is lucky to have her.)
Pehrson loves spending summers camping, backpacking and simply being outside.
What inspired you to become a teacher? I became a teacher because I grew up in an area where—in the span of 10 miles—public schools range drastically in terms of funding, quality, and achievement. This unfairness was very confusing to me as a child and left me wondering about the injustice so many communities experience. I was motivated to serve in communities that have been historically underserved.
In your three years in AAPS, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about teaching? About learning? In three years in AAPS, I have solidified my understanding that teaching and relationship building go hand and hand. I have learned that the best teaching happens when I tap into the incredible resources and people at my school.
Describe an average workday. An average workday as a teacher doesn’t seem so average. All teachers deal with an enormous range of people, messes, miracles and everything in between. My favorite part of my day is watching students work together to solve challenging problems. I also love morning and closing meeting and enjoy bookending the day with student-led meetings.
What’s the happiest part of your day? The happiest part of my day is connecting with kids through books, math problems, scientific inquiry, a good game at recess. Basically, any time kids are engaged, curious and having fun.
Apps you can’t live without: Technology-wise I am a pretty uninteresting person. Being from California, I thoroughly enjoy marveling at the anticipated inches of snow on my weather app. For school, I love using Seesaw and Book Creator which allows students to build really beautiful books.
What do you know about teaching now that you wish you’d known that first year? One thing I wish I knew about teaching my first year that I now know is that perfect can look an infinite number of ways and isn’t always the goal. Kids come to school in all ways, shapes, and forms and it is my job to acknowledge and meet them where they are.
How do you keep students engaged? I like to keep students engaged with student leadership and/or facilitation. I try to vary the way students share and demonstrate their learning as well as have students use different seating options for high engagement and comfort.
How do you show school spirit? I love how Pittsfield does whole-school rewards in which all staff participate.
What is the most rewarding part of teaching? The most rewarding part of teaching is forming meaningful relationships with students. I love watching students grow academically and personally during the year and beyond.
What do you wish everyone realized about the work of a teacher? I wish non-teachers realized that I don’t think of teaching as a burden but as a joy. A challenging, exhausting and at times daunting joy.
How do you recharge? I recharge by exercising after school and then promptly getting into cozy sweats and having breakfast for dinner. I really enjoy going to the farmer’s market on the weekend and subsequently making and/or eating yummy food.
How do you spend your summers? Outside!
What’s most exciting about your professional life right now? Your personal life? The most exciting thing about my professional life is making the move to second grade this year. I have so much to learn about the younger grades and have an even deeper respect for all of the teachers who have spent years teaching K-2. You are all warriors!
The most exciting thing about my personal life is that I recently had a good friend from college move to town.
What advice would you give to a first-year teacher? I would advise a first-year teacher to forgo perfection, not sweat the small stuff, set measurable goals, focus on behavior management through building relationships and try to enjoy it.