Position: Special Education Teacher
School: Wamego High School
School District: Wamego Public Schools
City, State: Wamego, KS
Music that Describes Heather
Heather Petermann was nominated by her colleague, Jina Kugler.
In a recent end of semester video, a student expressed gratitude that Mrs. Petermann made her classroom one where all students feel valued and welcome. Mrs. Petermann serves a wide variety of students, including individuals who are intellectually deficient, autistic, emotionally disturbed, learning disabled, and many with multiple disabilities. Regardless of whether a student is in a wheelchair, has multiple daily seizures, is nonverbal, or is unable to complete some daily self care tasks, Mrs. Petermann finds creative ways to integrate all students into the school family.
Her students are entrepreneurs. They have a coffee cart business that travels to every classroom (and some other schools in the district) selling coffee, hot cocoa, and tea. They also collect the school recycling, make deliveries in the school, assist in cleaning tasks, and bake. She has incorporated numerous peer tutors into her classroom, which has created a more understanding, appreciative culture in her school. Because Mrs. Petermann keeps her students active and visible, they have become an integral part of the school. They interact with other students and staff in the halls on a daily basis. In fact, one of her students was voted homecoming king a few years ago. After working as her peer tutors, many students have chosen careers in special education.
Mrs. Petermann's passion and enthusiasm extend beyond the classroom. She works with a variety of adults, including parents, a team of paraprofessionals, social service agency workers, and therapists. Her insights and experiences are invaluable in creating the best care plans possible for her students.
Mrs. Petermann extends her leadership as a member of her school's building leadership team. She is also the deacon of children's ministry and the monthly women's breakfast coordinator at her church. As a Girls on the Run coach, she empowers elementary-aged girls to find their "star power" by recognizing their unique gifts and talents.
Mrs. Petermann is not only committed to producing a nurturing atmosphere herself, but to modeling that for all of her colleagues and students. She maintains the highest ethical and moral standards to do right by her students, even though most of her efforts are behind the scenes. She could easily choose to simply meet the basic needs of her students, but instead, she consistently chooses to forge new paths that create more work for her, but more opportunity and growth for her students. Rather than feel defeated or overwhelmed, she is energetic and creative.
"Mrs. Petermann advocates for her students, educates the staff every chance she gets, and shows appreciation for the many ways regular education teachers accommodate her students," said Kugler. "A prime example is how she partners with the art teacher and integrates her students into the art classes in our high school. Mrs. Petermann makes opportunities to celebrate even the smallest of victories with her students. Her personality is a ray of sunshine in our school and community."