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Judson High School's Ms. Emily Peery wins Trinity Award

She was surrounded by teachers - her mom was a teacher, her grandma was a teacher, and it seemed like she was on the path to being a teacher.

It was in the blood.

But it was like a really badly kept secret - she was going to be a teacher. She knew it.

However, the path she curated in college - the lefts and rights that life throws at a person - did not seem to foreshadow the life she lives now - being an award-winning educator in the district that raised her - literally.

A 2009 graduate, her childhood was rooted in the district. Both her mom and grandma served the community, in some capacity, as teachers, specialists, and principals.

“Some of my happiest moments as a child were running around ERC and playing with toys during professional development meetings,” Peery said. “If you look in a random closet [in the ERC], you may find one of my toys from my childhood. I ran around Coronado Village, playing on the intercom late with my sister, not realizing we were calling outside the building into the neighborhood too.”

All paths seemingly should have led to her having a classroom of her own.

But after she graduated, her dream was to be a sports journalist, so she followed her friends to Texas A&M University - College Station.

Things didn’t go as planned.

“I was never fully invested in the idea [of being a journalist],” Peery said. “And I knew I didn’t have the personality of being a journalist.”

So, she changed her major to history, with the goal of eventually having a classroom of her own. But even her mom, a fellow educator, questioned the idea.

“Even she thought I couldn’t handle kids, that I didn’t have the patience for that,” Peery said.

Earning a history degree and deciding to pursue a graduate degree, she began wanting to pursue a career in teaching and education. So, she moved to Pennsylvania, pursuing a Ph.D. in Sports History from the University of Pittsburgh, with the hopes of being a college professor.

And that didn’t go as planned.

“They asked me politely to leave the Ph.D. program after my Master's degree,” Peery said. “My story isn’t a story about success.”

But Peery’s story is one of embracing failure and adjusting to life’s lefts and rights. When one learns how to navigate through all the unexpected obstacles, it eventually all comes together.

Now in her seventh year at Judson High School, Peery was awarded this year’s Teacher of the Year. Her achievements didn’t stop - it’s been a golden year for Ms. Emily Peery.

Not only was she the campus teacher of the year, but she was named the district’s Secondary Teacher of the Year. And on March 20, 2023, she received an email saying that she was awarded the 2023 Trinity Price for Excellence in Teaching from Trinity University.

“You are among a select group of dedicated educators who have been nominated by your district, and we are excited to celebrate your accomplishments,” the email said.

She student taught at Judson High School under another teacher she highly respected, Ms. Valerie Alvarez.

“I felt like it was in my gut that I would be hired [at Judson],” Peery said. “I just knew that I was going to end up back here. I didn’t know why.”

Now, as the department head of social studies and a veteran on campus, she pushed through the pandemic (which jolted education) with a resurgence of love for the profession.

And the need for teachers like Peery is imperative right now.

“You're going to have some bad days, but you're going to have some really, really great days; really, really, really rewarding days,” Peery said. “It's not a job for everyone and it's OK. For me, teaching provides stability. It can make you extremely happy if it fulfills your needs. Graduation is a sad day. Sometimes, when you watch all those kids go away and realize that you might never see or talk to them again, it’s sad. But, that's what makes it great because you know that they're doing things with their lives and that you were a part of their story. And so that's what I enjoy.”

When COVID hit, it jolted education. Three years later, the industry is still feeling the impacts of it - students are still adjusting, counselors are still addressing social and emotional concerns, and teachers are fleeing the profession. Peery struggled too, finding herself in a place she didn’t like.

“You don't feel the same chemistry. Without that relationship, you wouldn’t feel as effective,” Peery said. “I would do 15 minutes of Zoom, explain the instructions, and then five screens would disappear. And then I was just in my room, alone. Towards the end, I didn't realize how bad of a shape I was in.”

However, like many teachers, she was thinking of others more than herself and realized something that fuels many teachers.

“I think I realized how much I need the kids to bring me joy in my classroom,” Peery said.

Peery is now a vital part, and the epitome, of the Judson ISD story - someone who came from here, whose path didn’t initially lead back to here. But now, she’s a part of the family, an integral part of the family, an award-winning educator giving back to her community the way that it gave back to her.

And for that, we thank her. And congratulate her on her Trinity Award.

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