Peck strives to affirm in students their abilities and love for self, others

Published 7:49 pm Saturday, January 28, 2017

Inspiring her students to do their very best is what Claire Peck tries to do every day in her classroom.

“I’m big on affirmation,” she said.

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The Bowmar Elementary School kindergarten teacher said her best lessons are inspirational, engaging, motivating and encouraging, which is how she approaches life. She wants her students to believe they can do anything they set their mind to while loving themselves and others.

“I wake up every day excited about motivating and encouraging children to believe in themselves and the greatness they have within them. Each and every day I motivate them to be leaders who lead with hearts because, more than anything, they matter,” she said.

Having high expectations for her children, she said, is what pushes them to do their best. Peck has the same high expectations for all of her students to be leaders.

“My favorite part is the hope I get to give children. To have children believe in themselves, to teach them that they were born for greatness. They can do anything. They can be anything,” she said. “If they know you expect greatness, they are going to give you greatness. No matter what their background, no matter what their experiences in life, they are going to achieve what you make them believe they can achieve.”

Peck has been named the Teacher of the Year for Bowmar Elementary and also for the entire Vicksburg Warren School District. Interviews for the VWSD honor were conducted at the central office two weeks ago by college professors and community members. Superintendent Chad Shealy surprised her with the news by visiting her classroom with balloons in hand.

“I cried,” Peck said. “Very surprised. Took my breath away.”

She will move on to the statewide Mississippi Teacher of the Year Competition, and she is also still up for the Vicksburg-Warren County Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year honor.

“I teach because people matter, especially little people,” she said.

Peck said she wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. She grew up with parents who worked in business, but she always played school at home and taught lessons to her stuffed animals. Having great teachers growing up really motivated her to do the same for others.

“I never questioned what I was going to do,” she said. “I was just born to do it. There is nothing I have ever wanted to do more than teach school, and I feel that way after 24 years.”

Peck has her bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in kindergarten through sixth grade, and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in elementary education for kindergarten through sixth grade from the University of Southern Mississippi. 

Peck is in her first year at Bowmar. She started her career at Beechwood Elementary teaching kindergarten, third and fifth grade during her six years there. Then she moved to Sherman Avenue Elementary where she taught kindergarten for 15 years and pre-K for one year. In 2006, Peck was named Teacher of the Year by Sherman Avenue, and the chamber of commerce has recognized her twice.

She is a member of the National Education Association, a lifetime member of the Junior Auxiliary of Vicksburg and a member of Delta Kappa Gamma.

Twenty-one teachers in Warren County were nominated for teacher of the year. The Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce has selected a panel of educators to interview each school’s chosen teacher and will choose one elementary and one secondary teacher of the year on Feb. 15. Both teachers will receive $1,000.

Today’s story is the fifth in a series of articles on each teacher up for the honor of the Vicksburg Warren County Chamber of Commerce’s Teacher of the Year.