The Herkimer Central School District Spotlight showcases student, graduate, and staff member successes.
Leah Peyton is STEM teacher at Herkimer Elementary School.
How long have you been with the district? What were you doing before that?
Herkimer was my first teaching job. This is my 17th year teaching at the district, and my first as the STEM teacher. Prior to this, I taught math and science.
I went into the military after high school — I was a flight nurse, but I was really into the medical and biological side of things, so I went to college and wound up with two bachelor’s degrees in education, then went back to get my master’s degree. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve just been more and more interested in science.
What do you hope your students will take away from having you as a teacher?
I hope they’ll get better at math and science, and I hope they’ll remember having fun. I hope they are learning how to collaborate and share ideas. It’s important to give kids the chance to teach someone else something. It’s empowering, and it’s a glimpse into a leadership role, which can be very powerful.
Besides the STEM skills that we focus on, I try to introduce them to worldly things — to show them a little bit about life outside of the valley. It’s planting seeds to get them thinking bigger for themselves.
What have your students taught you?
They’ve taught me so much. They’re so quick at picking up new things, and finding new ways of doing things. I’ve had an iPad and an iPhone for years, but one of my students can pick one up and say, “Did you know you could do this?” and show me something I never even knew existed. They bring new ways of looking at things, new approaches to solving problems, that are just amazing.
What do you love about teaching at Herkimer?
The administration works so hard to give kids what they need, and to support teachers. We’re treated with respect — it’s the feeling that we’re all on the same team. Teachers support each other, and we all work together. Everybody wants to do what’s best for the kids.
The STEM program is one example of that. We had been inching toward a STEM program for years, but now the pieces have come together. We’re moving in leaps and bounds now, and it’s just been incredible to see these kids take it and run with it.