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Teachers are Heroes: Kara Peck builds strong relationships with BIS students

Published on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021

kara peck

BCSD photo / Monica Kreber

Kara Peck has a group of boys in her afternoon class that love sharing videos with her of them playing sports.

These students even invited her to one of their football games – which she attended.

“Just watching them be so excited that I was there…they were just so sweet,” she said.

Peck teaches fifth-grade math and science at Berkeley Intermediate School, and her favorite part about teaching is building relationships with her students and watching them grow in all aspects, even beyond academics.

“I actually…have some (former) students that now play basketball at the high school, and I started going to their games when they were here in the fifth grade,” she said, adding, “Now they’re big-time at the high school on the varsity team and I’ll go to some of their games.

“It’s cool just to build relationships with the kids,” she said.

Peck is from Moncks Corner and grew up in BCSD’s schools; she attended Whitesville Elementary, Berkeley Middle and Berkeley High. She is in her 11th year teaching at BIS and actually started her career at the school.

Peck still resides in the area and has been married to her husband, Bryan, for eight years. They have a 6-year-old male Dachshund named Chipper.

She initially pursued early childhood education at the University of South Carolina. She used to do teacher cadet and service learning with a friend whose mother taught at Berkeley Elementary, and Peck particularly enjoyed working with a first-grade group of Hispanic students. She initially was interested in early childhood education but opted to switch to elementary education to be with older students.

Peck’s students do a lot of learning stations in her class. This math workshop model was implemented two years ago, where the teachers do a mini lesson with the students, and then throughout the week they rotate through stations in small groups. Every day Peck pulls a small group to work with one-on-one as well.

“It took a lot of getting used to but I really love it because I do get to pull that small group of students and I get to work with them more one-on-one and I get to see what their strengths and weaknesses are,” she said. “That gives me the ability to either give them that remediation that they need…or gives me the ability to enrich or boost them up.

“It’s all about building the relationships with the kids, and they tend to do better and they open up more about what they need help with when they’re in a small group,” she said. “They feel more confident and then they build that trust with you as the teacher.”

With the added challenge of the pandemic this year, Peck misses her students who are learning from home but said her students rose to the challenge.

“I have so many students on the virtual learning that are successful, and it’s because of their attitude toward it and the effort that they’re putting in,” she said.

Berkeley Intermediate is known for implementing practices that allow for students to take accountability for their learning; last year the school had students take on leadership roles by introducing them to student-led rubrics and student-led conferences.

Peck said at the beginning of the year they teach students about growth mindset, positive behavior and learning through mistakes.

“We tie all of that in to what we do through the remainder of the year, and just continuously teaching them to be lifelong learners,” she said. "I literally say it every day: 'take responsibility for your learning.'"

This year her students have done a lot of project-based learning in science, where they’re given the material and explore it through videos, articles and research. While all students have different learning styles, Peck said she has students who are doing really well with the research aspect and taking the responsibility to understand the material.

Peck said they have tried to stick with math stations this year, and even though it is harder to do with the pandemic, they are not giving up on it.

“We’re still trying to do those learning stations but a lot of it has been more digital,” she said.

She said her favorite thing about BIS, in addition to the relationships, is the people.

“(Principal Mike) Shaw is kind of like a father figure to the whole school,” she said. “He takes care of us in all aspects. He’s always got our back.”

Peck added that while teachers have come and gone while she has been at the school, they have always maintained a strong team.

“It always seems we build a good community – we help each other, we work together," she said.

Monica Kreber