During her years at Saint Mary’s, Peebles has been witness to the growth of the parish and the school community. She and her husband, Lee, were married in 1982 in what is now the parish hall and cafeteria, and what then was the church. She’s seen the second church built (what is now the Upper Commons) and the new – current – church constructed. Her class sizes have almost doubled as the school has grown.
Peebles has worked under eight principals, and been a St. Mary’s parishioner through eight pastors. Her children – Christopher, Rachel and Matthew, now in their 20s and 30s, were born during her career, and all baptized at Saint Mary’s.
“It’s been like a family,” Peebles said. “The people at Saint Mary’s have been here for me, and they take care of one another. It’s been like a second home.”
Kathleen Tucholka has been Peebles’ aide for the past eight years. “Pam is a teacher who knows she is accountable and who strives to rise to that accountability,” Tucholka said. “She is amazing – you don’t stay somewhere 41 years if you are not great at what you do.”
“Pam is a devout Catholic whose faith has been strengthened by her life at Saint Mary’s, and her students and colleagues are enriched by her example,” Tucholka said.
“We see Christ in our students, and that’s what we try to teach them,” Peebles said, “to look for Christ in everyone, and treat everyone with love and kindness.”
Peebles has taught first grade, third grade, and kindergarten during her time at Saint Mary’s, and considers all of her students to be “her” kids. She said it’s special to see her grown-up students today, and to have watched them grow as they’ve matriculated through Saint Mary’s. She’s been blessed to teach siblings, as well as, in recent years, sons and daughters of former students.
Becca Croxton is one of those individuals who had Peebles as a teacher, and whose daughter, Lucy, did too. Becca was in Peebles’ third grade class in 1987; Lucy was in her kindergarten class in the 2017-18 school year. Becca’s mom, Camilla Alipanah, also worked at Saint Mary’s for more than 30 years, first as a kindergarten aide and then as receptionist.
“Mrs. Peebles has always been a staple in my life,” Croxton said. “I don’t remember a time without her. She’s been there [at Saint Mary’s] as long as my mom has!
“I loved having her,” Croxton said. “I knew that she and Lucy would be a great pairing – I knew that she would love the spunk in Lucy. Mrs. Peebles was a loving, kind teacher – always warm. She would always give us hugs.”
“It was special when Mrs. Peebles gave you a hug. She stopped to listen to you and it made you feel seen,” Croxton said. “When she was Lucy’s teacher, she didn’t try to dampen Lucy’s spunk. She was able to see the good in it and encourage and constructively use it. She’s a very genuine person and cares so much about the kids.”
Rick Foster, Becca’s classmate, is another former third-grade student of Peebles whose son, Xavier, had Peebles for kindergarten. Foster said he was surprised to see her name when he and his wife found out who Xavier would have as a kindergarten teacher, and thought it was a coincidence that two teachers at Saint Mary’s would have the same last name. Then they arrived on meet-the-teacher day and discovered it was the same Peebles.
“She knew me flat out!” Foster said. “I was surprised that she was still teaching and excited for Xavier to have a teacher whom I had. He loved her – she was his favorite teacher. It was really neat for it to be full circle.”
Rick and his family attended Mass at St. Mary’s parish when he was growing up, and he remembers seeing some of his teachers at Mass – Peebles was one of those teachers he saw both at church and at school. Her faith made an impression on Rick. He has a lot of admiration for her.
“She is a patient person,” he said. “She must be to work with so many children and so many personalities for so long – siblings and families – not too many people can say they do that in any occupation.”
Rick and Becca both had Peebles for third grade, and their children had her for kindergarten, which is the grade she’s taught for 15 years. One of her favorite aspects of teaching kindergarten is to help children begin to start reading.
“Watching the lightbulbs go off and their big grins when they ‘get’ it is amazing,” Peebles said.
Leaving Saint Mary’s this year is bittersweet, she said. “I’m excited to spend time with family and friends and my dog, but it’s hard to leave a place you’ve been for 41 years.”
Peebles, her husband, their children and their children’s significant others plan to take a three-week trip to Europe together once COVID is better controlled, to celebrate her birthday and retirement. Peebles also hopes to work with her dog Brodie, a four-year-old Mastador (Mastiff + Labrador) to train him to be a therapy dog.
To all of her colleagues, she said: “Thank you for all these wonderful years. As long as you keep leading with love and respect, Saint Mary’s will be here.”