It’s a voice so familiar to Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, you can hear it through the walls and the halls of the school.
“I just always wanted to be a teacher,” Vicki Peake said.
Vicki Peake is in her 49th year teaching literature — all at Valley.
“At the heart of it, they’re still kids,” Peake said. “They need someone who really wants to teach middle school. They need someone who really cares about them, and I do and I love it.”
When Peake entered her first classroom in 1971 …
“When I started teaching, we did not have computers in the classroom. We type things on a typewriter, and then we ran them off on the Xerox machine so that they have that purple link. And it smelled, so kids would go home at the end of the day with purple on their noses because they’d all get up so they can smell it,” Peake said.
And she’s done just about every extracurricular job imaginable.
“I coached the hurdles for about two months, and then I went and I told the coach ‘I’m doing these kids in-service I can time … I’ll be willing to do anything else but really the hurdles,” Peake said. “I was even asked to be the wrestling coach, and I drew the line and I said, ‘Are you nuts?’ I said you have to be able to get down on that man and we go around with that. I said, ‘No, I won’t do that.”
That’s about the only time you’ll hear a ‘no’ from Peake — who devotes herself to her students — in and out of the classroom.
“And she can tell you immediately stories of kids that she had, and remembers names and remembers parents and remembers situations, that is really just incredible,” principal Todd Selk said. “And I think it really just tells us that these are meaningful times for her, but she has no idea of the impression or the meaningful experiences she’s providing for literally thousands of students in her 49 years.”
Just ask her former student turned teacher, and coach and friend, Ryan Kasowski.
“You know, she would never take credit for the things she’s done but she has changed thousands of people’s lives with her passion and commitment to make a difference in everyone’s world. So, she’s the best,” Kasowski said.
Recent students feel the same way.
“She’s amazing. She’s such a great teacher. She’s so fun — she made class really fun — and she was always there for her students,” Emma Stevenson said.
Peake hopes to be “there” for a 50th year next fall, drawn by what she calls a caring staff and, of course, her students.
“Valley is the best, in my eyes,” Peake said. “And I want my kids to be proud of this school. You know, I tell them you need to be proud of the school. You are what makes the school what it is.”
- Story, video and photos produced by Tom Gerhardt, NDU Communications.