Peek among state’s top educators

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A professor once told Andalusia Elementary’s Barbara Peek she was too smart to be a teacher.

Peek, who at the time was a pre-med student, said it was that comment that stuck a deep chord within. Now, it’s a comment that has earned her a spot as a “sweet 16” finalist for Alabama’s teacher of the year.

“In the middle of college, I got bored with school, which was so unlike me,” said Peek, who teaches science at AES. “I loved to study. I finally decided to change my major from pre-med. I went to a teaching for gifted students class, and that was the first time in my life, I said, ‘I can see myself doing that. I can see myself as a teacher.’

Peek said she didn’t hesitate to pursue her goal.

“I remember when I told one of my other instructors about my decision to teach elementary students, he said, ‘What a waste of your intelligence,’ and that hit me.” Peek said. “I said, ‘You don’t want smart people teaching your child? That’s crazy.’ Why shouldn’t the cream-of-the-crop stand in front of a classroom, educating our future?’”

Peek said she relayed that experience to qualify for the award, where an elementary and secondary teacher was named from each of the eight state board of education districts in March. Peek was named the District 1 winner in the elementary division.

A final four will be selected this month and the teacher of year will be named at “Stars in Education,” a live broadcast show, hosted by the Alabama Department of Education and Alabama Public Television on Wed., May 9, at 7 p.m.

“The educators nominated for this prestigious award are models for teaching at its best,” said Dr. Tommy Bice, state superintendent of education. “We are very proud to have them teaching in our state, encouraging students to excel every day.”

The same sentiment is felt about Peek on a local level.

“We have awesome tachers at AES and Mrs. Peek is a representative of all of our teacher,” said AES Principal Patty Taylor. “She has a contagious enthusiam for teaching. Her love of her students and the profession is evident in the extra time she generously gives.”

“Mrs. Peek is a devoted teacher who seeks to draw the best from of her students daily,” said Andalusia City School Superintendent Ted Watson. “After spending just a few moments in her classroom, it becomes obvious that she has a deep desire to open her students’ eyes to the world of science around them. Her reputation for excellence is second to none so I am not at all surprised that this honor has come her way.”

Peek said she was shocked to learn she’d made it to the state competition.

On Tuesday, Peek was instructing Mrs. Julie Hardy’s fourth grade class about how sounds travel – at point, grabbing up her guitar to demonstrate how the vibrations of the strings make sound.

The state teacher of the year spends the majority of the school year serving as the spokesperson for education and the teaching profession as well as presenting workshops to various groups. Additionally, the state representative is a candidate for the national award.