Photo by Johnny Jackson
Debbie Peabody (left) and her daughter, Amanda Peabody, say they have found balance in their relationship as mother and daughter, and as veteran teacher and rookie teacher.
McDONOUGH — By age 3, Amanda Peabody knew what she wanted to become. She said all the influences in her life, and her own desire to learn and teach, pushed her toward becoming a teacher.
Now, at 22, Amanda is fulfilling her dream of closely following the trail blazed by her mother, Debbie Peabody.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” said Amanda. “But it was fourth period on my first day, for some reason, it sunk in. I was like: ‘Oh my God, I’m a teacher.’ And that [first day] was the only time I was not nervous to do something teaching-wise.”
Amanda is starting her first year as an educator, while her mother is entering year 29. Both are teaching architectural drafting and design — Amanda at Ola High School in McDonough, and Debbie at Union Grove High School in McDonough.
“I think she’s going to be just fine,” interjected her mother, Debbie, 54.
Debbie knows her craft. She was named Henry County Schools’ 1997 Teacher of the Year, and was a semifinalist for the statewide recognition the following year. This past year, she was a finalist for the National SkillsUSA Advisor of the Year Award and the National Association for Career and Technical Education’s Teacher of the Year Award.
The veteran teacher can make claim to having helped mold young minds to becoming successful adults in a range of professions. As an example, she pointed to former student, Matt Hallmark, who uses what he learned in her classroom to help design and manufacture prostheses.
“I think it’s an opportunity to share with students something I truly believe will benefit them, relative to whatever they decide to do,” said Debbie, describing her job. “I want to expose students to potential careers, and prepare students for the skills they will need to get a job.”
In the classroom, Debbie has had a hand in producing national champions — students who competed nationally based on their academic abilities and social skills. Seven of her students won gold medals at 2012 Skills USA Championships, held this summer in Kansas City, Mo.
Her own daughter, Amanda, is another success story. Debbie taught her all four years she attended at Union Grove High. Now, Amanda aspires to live up to her mother’s legacy.
Asked about her future goals, Amanda pointed at her mother and affirmed, without hesitation, “My goal is to be like her.”
The rookie teacher said the favorite part of her job, so far, has been interacting with her students.
“They’re so excited to be there,” said Amanda.
Her mother agreed with the sentiment, professing it has not changed for her in 29 years of teaching.
“You can’t be with kids and not have fun,” said Debbie.
The elder Peabody reflected on her first few years as a teacher.
“I think you get tested,” said Debbie. “Your authority gets tested when you are young.”
The mother said she offers support to her daughter on a daily basis as a mother, and as a fellow teacher with years of experience behind her. She pointed out, however, that her daughter has as much to offer the teaching profession as she has.
“I think there is a so much collaboration with teachers,” Debbie said, “I don’t think experience counts as much as it once did.”
Debbie acknowledged it takes her, a veteran teacher, more work to get into standards-based instruction, compared to her daughter who was not only trained in it, but also is a product of a standards-based curriculum.
She holds bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree from Georgia State University. Amanda graduated in May from the University of Georgia, and plans to return next year to pursue her master’s degree.