Brian Peterson: 'We are Lifelong Learners and We Learn Together'
Fifth-grade Musson science teacher recently recognized with state award.
At Rochester Patch we are always interested in people who make a difference in our community. Who better to spotlight than the teachers who help shape the next generation?
I recently sat down with fifth-grade Musson Elementary School teacher Brian Peterson. He is one of two Rochester teachers to receive the Michigan Science Teachers Association's "Science Teacher of the Year" award. (We'll talk to recipient Gary Cousino next.)
Here are a few of Peterson's thoughts on teaching, learning — and bees.
How long have you been teaching?
This is my 12th year at Musson; prior to that I taught three years at an outdoor education school called Michindoh in Hillsdale. This is where our fifth-grade kids go to camp. There is a lot of hands-on science, a lot of team building and they do living history ... they spend three days and two night there. I love hands-on learning in any subject matter.
What is your hometown?
Grand Rapids. I went to a small high school called Grand Rapids Baptist Academy. In college I went to North Park University which is in Chicago.
Do you have a mentor?
I knew in fifth grade that I was going to be a teacher and had a wonderful teacher (Mr. Hartman) in fifth grade. He inspired me to want to be a teacher and it stuck all the way through.
What is your teaching philosophy?
This is always the big question. I am always changing my answer. I just feel that we are lifelong learners and we learn together. My philosophy is to make sure I have an environment where people feel comfortable to learn. To be right, to be wrong, make mistakes, to have victories and where they're not afraid to ask and explore and get their hands dirty. I never use the phrase "my classroom"; it's always "our classroom" because it is. I feel that I am more a facilitator in the process. I love when the kids help drive the curriculum.
What are your interests outside the classroom?
I love to garden. Anything nature, I'm all about it. I am a hobbyist beekeeper. I work with Dr. Dyanne Tracy at Oakland University educating students. I am currently working on a grant to get an apiary at Dinosaur Hill. Rochester is planting a community garden behind Dinosaur Hill and we would like to have an apiary right adjacent to that. I love theater, the arts. I love to be active in the community.
What's on your iPod?
I think I had Adam Lambert on this morning and of course Lady Gaga's always close by his side. I love music: pop, classical ... anything '80s!
What are your goals?
One of my goals is I would love to teach at the college level. I love teaching future teachers. I have had student teachers for the past seven years. I love sharing my passion for teaching with them. I do have my administrator's certificate but I don't know – I love the classroom so much. But maybe down the road one day I would step into administration. One of my goals is to get the community apiary. We wouldn't be eating half the stuff we are eating if it wasn't for the honey bees.
Brian lives in Lake Orion, where he keeps a pet cat in addition to the bees. His class is filled with animals, including hermit crabs, snakes, a lizard and tree frogs. Brian shares his enthusiasm with students outside the classroom, too, as the teacher representative for student council.