McLean County Middle School 8th grade English teacher Courtney Peek has been named the 2021 Educator of the Year by the McLean County Chamber of Commerce. Peek was honored with the award on April 22.
“My invitation got lost in the mail,” Peek said. “My whole team knew and most of the kids knew, but I didn’t. It did catch me off guard. I felt overwhelmed and emotional and very honored.”
Peek said this has been the “weirdest year” teaching in her 14 years.
“The first half of the year was all online with virtual and distance learning,” she said. “That requires a completely different set of skills compared to teaching in person, where you can react to the students in real time. It was a challenge.”
She said she likes to make each academic year different so she doesn’t get bored with the material and this year was definitely different for her and the students.
Peek was hired in 2007 to teach at the middle school as an English teacher. Before teaching 8th grade English, she was a 9th grade English teacher for several years.
Teaching is Peek’s third career path she has had. After graduating college with an English degree, she was a gelato chef in Louisville and then became a welder for Dana.
“I didn’t see much of a future for me in the factory setting,” she said. “I was working with the [middle school] band because my niece was on the color guard at the time and Tres Settle saw me and knew I had an English degree and asked for my application so I went back and got certified and started teaching.”
Peek said she thinks she always wanted to be a teacher but resisted the opportunity.
“I wanted to do some other things first, but now that I’m teaching, I can’t imagine another career for me,” she said.
She said she chose to obtain an English degree because she has always been an avid reader and enjoys writing.
“My favorite part about teaching is the kids,” she said. “We have awesome kids in McLean County. They are so vibrant and they have such great ideas. Here at the middle school age, they are old enough to have some difficult conversations but still young enough to not be too ‘cool’ to talk to the teacher. They’ve taught me more than I’ve ever taught them.”
Peek said some of the activities her students have done this year include a discussion on the new Dollar General being built in Beech Grove and a discussion on facial recognition technology.
Peek runs a blog called “Courtney on Chemo” where she talks about being diagnosed with cancer in 2019. She underwent chemotherapy in 2020 and this year she is undergoing maintenance therapy. She said her tumors have decreased and there is no evidence of tumors on her scans.
Karah Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org