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To our former teachers: We’ve got your back

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I was born in Arizona, raised in Glendale, and I am an alumnus of Horizon Elementary School, Landmark Middle School, Apollo High School, and the University of Arizona.

I currently live in a suburb of Philadelphia and I am a physician who specializes in emergency medicine and critical care medicine. As I read about the struggle my teachers and mentors are dealing with in their professional lives, I am compelled to say something: Thank you.

Some might assume that as a physician, I am most thankful for my background in science and math. And while I am grateful for the efforts of those educators, I am most thankful for my background in language, history, social sciences, and the arts.

I want to thank Señoras Boyer, Cheshire, and Molina for teaching me how to speak Spanish and how to interact with my Spanish-speaking patients with compassion and sensitivity. I want to thank Mr. Bee for teaching world history, U.S. government, and public speaking. Because of him I have an awareness of where we have come from as a civilization, I can advocate for my patients in political arenas, and I can speak to small and large groups as an educator.

I want to thank Mrs. Geames and Mrs. Augustine for letting me stage manage Apollo’s dramatic and musical productions. Because of them I can help lead a team composed of nurses, resident and fellow physicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, dieticians, social workers, and medical students in the care of the critically ill and injured. I want to thank my English teachers for building an appreciation for literature, the stories we tell about ourselves and each other, which has immeasurably increased my understanding and empathy for others.

I’m just one story. My classmates have become educators, many in the Glendale schools. They have gone around the world to teach English, practice physical therapy in Alaska, act in Arizona’s premiere Shakespeare company, work in local and state government, practice law, and anchor broadcast news in San Diego.

They are parents, mentors, community leaders, and even if that weren’t important enough, they are good people.

Measured purely from an economic perspective, public education pays incredible dividends for each dollar invested. But more than that, accessible and excellent education made possible by well-trained and well-paid teachers is a key driver in human and societal thriving.

I want to say thanks. Even though I’m a few thousand miles away from home, I urge my friends, family, classmates, and most of all, my former teachers to continue the struggle.

Continue fighting for what you know is right and what you believe. You have students around the country and the world who have your back.

Lars-Kristofer N. Peterson, MD

Horizon Elementary ’95, Landmark Middle School ’97, Apollo High School ’01