Ms. Deanne Pearson began serving in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District in 1984. She taught in schools, raised her children through our schools, and instructed our graduates at Kenai Peninsula College. What might be most surprising–both if you know Ms. P and if you know math teachers in general–is that her flexibility is what makes her extraordinary.
“It is no secret on our staff that I have pushed Deanne’s flexibility to its limits,” said nominator and River City Academy Principal Dawn Edwards-Smith. “There has been more than one occasion where I forced a drastic pivot in math instruction mid-quarter because we weren’t getting the results we needed. Every time that we made a pivot, our math instruction improved. That level of flexibility and resiliency is rare in a teacher and practically extinct in math teachers.
Two years ago, RCA made the decision to become a Summit Learning Partner. Ms. P was all on board, despite that it meant she would once again reinvent what happens in the classroom. Summit’s approach to math was in line with the theory that Ms. P wanted in her classroom, but they also offered the support and research that is impossible to replicate in a small school. What can be overlooked is that math can be the most challenging subject to teach in a competency-based model. Knowing this, Ms. P dedicated herself to learn the ‘new’ approach to math and bring it to her classroom and students. For our staff, this meant additional meetings, training and groundwork for the math teacher. When we attend Summit Trainings, math teachers attend their own sessions to allow time for the re-learning that needs to happen. I often make the joke, ‘Math is different’ whenever discussing curriculum. The reality is that math is different, and Ms. P embraced that.”
At a community art event last year, including several teachers, former KPBSD students, and community members, one participant continued to quietly look over to us throughout the first hour of the event. Eventually she made her way over to our table and asked my colleague, ‘Are you Ms. P?’ The woman, in her mid to late 30s was visibly excited at the thought. Yes, this was Ms. P… ‘You were my favorite math teacher!’ The woman had been in Deanne Pearson’s (then Pokryfki) math class about 20 years before and went on to tell the group that she had hated math until Ms. P, and had gone on to become a financial director for a prominent Kenai Peninsula corporation. I laughed and asked Deanne if that made her feel old. At which point another woman in the group, clearly older than myself or the former student leaned over to our table to say, ‘If you really want to feel old, I was in her class too!’
In addition to advocating for standards based math and working on the districtwide Curriculum Committee for math curriculum revisions, Deanne was the RCA advisor for Sources of Strength where she invested countless hours working on school-wide projects and campaigns to improve student social emotional learning.
Students describe Ms. P, and over and over again her caring personality and the countless hours she dedicates going above and beyond for her students came shining through. Students said:
- “Ms. P is a great friend and person to talk to. She is a great teacher and makes schoolwork that is hard, easier to learn. I look up to her.”
- “Ms. P helped me overcome my fear of math.”
- “She can relate to problems and can give you advice on what to do and always makes us feel better with a hug.”
- “Ms. P. is protective of EVERYONE. She helps kids when they are feeling sad or upset. She stays after school to help students and gives students snacks when they don’t have food.”
- “Ms. P teaches 7-12th grade math and makes it easy to understand. I can’t think of many other teachers who work as hard as she does.”
Deanne is an extraordinary teacher not only because of the years in the classroom, not only because of the relationships that she builds with students, not only because she can teach any math needed, but because she has never given up on becoming a better teacher. Even in our last pivot to remote learning (Remote RCA), which I promised Deanne would be the last pivot she would make, she remained committed to being the best she could for students. Despite being pushed to her own limits, she continues to grow, improve and become the best teacher she can for her students. That is what makes her extraordinary.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education is proud to recognize Ms. Deanne Pearson for her dedication to the students of the school district, past, present, and future.