Fresh faces join Mustang family: Denise Peterson

“The kindergarten teacher said, ‘You know what, you’ve got a gift. You need to do this.’” This was the determining factor in Denise Peterson’s decision to enter the child development field. After babysitting other children and working with kids, she knew what she wanted to do with her career.

Peterson began her career in education as a preschool teacher for five years. For the next 27 years, she taught high school and post-secondary (college) courses at the Del Norte campus in West Covina for the East San Gabriel Valley Regional Occupational Program and Technical Center. Simultaneously, she held a position as the director of the Child Care Center at the Del Norte campus, where she worked with children from ages 1-12.

“I always babysat when I was a teenager, I love kids. When my kids were born I went and volunteered at their elementary school in the kindergarten and I just loved it,” Peterson said. “I started my education when I went into the field. I love it. I love kids. I love working with the students, and it’s just been a passion ever since.”

At WHS, Peterson teaches the Advanced Careers in Education course second period and the Early Childhood courses from periods 3-6. In the Advanced Careers in Education course, students learn about the different careers in education that are available in the future and how to obtain them. In the Early Childhood courses class, students learn about child development and what it is like to work in the field of childhood development.

“Usually without COVID-19 they go to schools and do internships, but now you know it’s a little more advanced so I’m trying to get them ready [for] what education is the next step,” Peterson said. “Also, what are things that they could look forward to in the field of early childhood at or working with children or being a teacher.”

Peterson’s goals for this year is to change the lives of the students in her class through the way she teaches and the experiences that they get.

“Inspiring young people to go into the field of early childhood and working with kids. Also if they decide not to go into this field. I know that the skills I’m teaching them will make them outstanding parents,” Peterson said. “I want them to realize that there are other careers out there that are available, that there is a huge need for wonderful teachers out there. From all you know from working with the little ones from infants to toddlers all the way through elementary school, and that there are other jobs out there in the field like social work and psychologists There’s so much more for them. And if they do decide to be a parent they’re going to have the skills to do well in that as well.”

Peterson’s love for students has allowed her to keep on teaching. Each experience that she goes through is an experience that she treasures and loves through each of her students and interactions with others.

“I love it. I’m an extroverted person. So during COVID I am sometimes going crazy. I just want to be with people. And so, they give me the energy to keep going,” Peterson said. “The students are there for me to keep me going, keep me energized. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop. I don’t know if I’ll ever retire because I love what I do. And I’ll miss it when I leave.”

By Samuel Au, Feature Editor
Photo by Kevin Lu