National Teacher’s Day — Celebrating One of the Best!

Leslie Randall Peters

National Teachers day is May 9, 2017 and to celebrate I decided to honor one of my longest and closest friends, Leslie Randall Peters, who also happens to be an amazing art teacher.  Of all of my friends, (all 4 of them), it seems that Leslie always knew exactly what she wanted and how to get there.  Leslie graduated college and quickly moved out of state to land her first teaching job in North Carolina where she has remained for the past 9.5 years teaching visual arts to 6th, 7th, and 8th graders.  I asked her a few questions about her experience and here is what she had to say followed by some great books featuring influential teachers.

When did you first know you wanted to be a teacher?

After my hopes of becoming a professional basketball player began to fade and I started to really think about my future goals. I’d say around my sophomore year of high school. I really knew that it was what I wanted to do after completing a semester internship program at a local elementary school.

What/Who inspired you to become a teacher?

I would say that I was inspired by some of my own teachers growing up. There isn’t one in particular, but several that made a lasting impact on me. Looking back, it’s not so much the curriculum that they were teaching me, it was more about the relationships that we shared.

What is the greatest challenge being a teacher?

The greatest challenge about being a teacher is reaching those students that seem unreachable. Each student enters class with a variety of different challenges. These challenges can include a tough home life, a special educational need, or typical teenage pressures. I’ve learned that if you can’t build a relationship with the student and create some common ground it will certainly be difficult to convince them that what you teach has any value to their life. Also, it can be a struggle to inspire students to want to achieve more than they thought possible in such a short time period.

What do you enjoy most about being a teacher?

It’s wonderful to see the growth in my students and seeing them succeed beyond their own expectations. It’s great to see a student’s sense of pride in their finished work as well as the pride of their family and the school community. As an art teacher, I have the ability to work with students for each of their middle school years which allows me to see them grow from young children to young adults.

If you weren’t a teacher what would you be?

If I weren’t a teacher I think I would like to have a career in video production. I was lucky enough to have some experience with this in high school and it was something I really enjoyed doing.

What was your favorite book growing up? Now?

When I think back to my early days of reading one book stands out, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, by Beverly Cleary. I remember reading this book in my 2nd grade class and from that point on I was a Cleary fan!

Now, I prefer reading autobiographies. I enjoy a good laugh so my favorites are written by comedians.  My favorite so far is Bossypants, by Tina Fey.


Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson Speak
By: Laurie Halse Anderson

A traumatic event near the end of the summer has a devastating effect on Melinda’s freshman year in high school.  Mr. Freeman, Melinda’s art teacher, not only allows Melinda to explore her emotions but he treats his students like intelligent beings and Melinda sees him an adult who speaks the truth.  Ages 13 and up

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco The Art of Miss Chew
By: Patricia Polacco

Describes how a teacher named Miss Chew encouraged individuality, and accepted learning differences, and helped a young student with academic difficulties get extra time to take tests and permission to be in advanced art classes. Inspired by the author’s memories of her art teacher.  Ages 5 and up

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book
By: Neil Gaiman

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own, including Miss Lupesco, whose tough love helps him to become an enthusiastic student.  Ages 8 and up

Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
By: Kevin Henkes

Lilly loves everything about school, especially her teacher, but when he asks her to wait a while before showing her new purse, she does something for which she is very sorry later but Mr. Slinger proves to be very forgiving and able to nurture Lilly through a tough time.  Ages 3 and up

Matilda by Roald Dahl Matilda 
By: Roald Dahl

Matilda, a brilliant, sensitive little girl, uses her talents and ingenuity to seek revenge on her crooked father, lazy mother, and the terrifying Miss Trunchbull, her wicked headmistress, and save her beloved teacher, Miss Honey.  Ages 8 and up

Miss Nelson is Missing by James Marshall Miss Nelson is Missing
By: James Marshall

The arrival of a strict substitute teacher convinces Miss Nelson’s students that they must find their cheery and hitherto unappreciated teacher and bring her back to school.  Ages 4 and up

The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill The Year of Miss Agnes
By: Kirkpatrick Hill

When a new teacher comes to their remote Alaskan town, ten-year-old Frederika and her classmates believe that this teacher will leave as quickly as all the rest, but Miss Agnes is different.  Ages 8 and up

Sideways Stories From Sideways School by Louis Sachar Sideways Stories From Wayside School
By: Louis Sachar

Presents humorous episodes from the classroom on the thirtieth floor of Wayside School, which was accidentally built sideways with one classroom on each story and filled with all sorts of teachers.  Ages 10 and up

Thanks You Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco Thank You, Mr. Faulkner
By: Patricia Polacco

At first, Trisha loves school, but her difficulty learning to read makes her feel dumb, until, in the fifth grade, a new teacher helps her understand and overcome her problem.  Ages 6 and up

The Secret School by Avi The Secret School
By: Avi

In 1925, fourteen-year-old Ida Bidson secretly takes over as the teacher when the one-room schoolhouse in her remote Colorado area closes unexpectedly.  Ages 10 and up


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