A Special Teacher’s Story of “That Kid” by Lisa Nielsen

Peggy Sheehy is “That Teacher.” You know the one. The one that you remember after you graduate. Not because she helped you fill in the bubblesheet well or do a great job at answering the questions at the end of the chapter or diagram a sentence. Those are the teachers you want to forget. Peggy is the teacher kids will remember not because she is so stylish or because she has the coolest and funkiest hair of any adult around...though she does!

Peggy received her Master’s Degree in Educational Technology from Stony Brook University and studied Library Science at Southern Connecticut State University. She was named Tech Teacher of the Year two times and is an advocate for the authentic use of technology in education, but this also has nothing to do with why Peggy is “That Teacher” students will remember.

Peggy is “That Teacher” kids will remember because she is a teacher that asks, “Why?” when...

She’s told she must teach to the test.
Children can’t partake in virtual worlds.
Her students must follow outdated mandates and regulations.
Games like World of Warcraft are banned in school.
She’s told she must teach students about topics that they would find boring or irrelevant.

And, then, she works to do what she needs to, to do what is right for kids rather than do what is most convenient and/or what has always been done.

Peggy is “That Teacher,” that special teacher who will be remembered by “That Kid.” You know the one. The one most teachers want to forget. The one who doesn’t pay attention, goofs off, and is considered a general PIA to most teachers. The kid who is the class clown, the troublemaker, the kid teachers refer for ADD/ADHD treatment because of their energy and enthusiasm that might wind you up in the corner or sitting under the desk for the day. Peggy is “That Teacher” that will be remembered by “That Kid” who “never worked up to her potential.” Peggy will be remembered by those kids because Peggy was “That Kid” and she knows that when it comes to “That Kid” the answer usually isn’t to “Fix the Child.” It is often to “Fix the School.”

Peggy is “That Teacher” because she knows that often what is right for kids is to stray from the textbook, the worksheet, the rules, and the regulations and teach a different way...a way where passion, not just data, drives learning. Peggy is “That Teacher” because she remembered that the dearth of “Those Teachers” was the reason she became “That Kid” who as she got further along in her schooling, dropped out because school had not made what it wanted to teach her relevant to her world and had not spoken to her passions.

You see, young Peggy had the wrong learning style (sit and git didn’t work for Peggy) and the wrong passion. It wasn’t readin’ writin’ or ‘rithmetic. Her passion was music which school had neither acknowledged or nurtured. There was no place for that in school as the arts always took a back seat. She went on to pursue a successful career as a singer/songwriter, until one day when she felt her passion shifting.

Peggy was in pursuit of a higher purpose and wanted to positively impact the world. The irony was that what made the most sense to her was to go back to that very environment she had dropped out of, virtually unnoticed, so long ago. She wanted to become a teacher and become that bright light for students like her. Of course, that meant she’d need to fulfill her high school graduation requirements first! Peggy serves as living proof that you can successfully opt out of school (read how here) and that it is never too early or late to follow your passions. She completed her high school requirements and got herself into college...in her 30s!

Peggy had shifted course and moved from the path of making music to that of awakening dreams. She was keenly aware that she was entering a system that robs many of our dreams and crushes our passions but she was determined that she was not going to let that happen. She worked hard to work within the system, knowing that sometimes she’d have to break the rules and challenge the system. As a result of her work, the unconventional has moved toward becoming the conventional. Among other things she has done this through her work in bringing video games, disdained by an entire generation of adults, into schools. She has proven that they are fertile ground for learning.

Peggy puts out a call to action to all teachers to take the chance to be unconventional and challenge the system in an effort to get those students who have tuned out to tune back in. She suggests that from within the system we need to change the system. To do this she suggests teachers think of one initiative that might challenge the system to do something that is good for kids. Once you you do, begin by taking a stand where you stand and become the one bright light that challenges the status quo, goes against the tide, and enables teachers to reclaim their dreams and help children find theirs.

In her next role in life Peggy is working hard to encourage other educators to be the bright light for “That Student” and to keep the education system from robbing kids of their dreams. Watch this video to hear her heartfelt story in her own inspirational voice as she shared her message with an audience of more than 10,000 at the world's largest conference for technology educators.

Cross posted at The Innovative Educator blog theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com.

Lisa Nielsen is best known as creator of The Innovative Educator blog(http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com) and Transforming Education for the 21st Century(http://ted21c.ning.com) learning network. Lisa is an outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education. She is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Based in New York City, Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success. Her first book, Teaching Generation Text,is set for a fall 2011 release. You can follow her on Twitter @InnovativeEdu.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.