By Alison Ecklund
Yavapai County’s fourth- through eighth-grade Teacher of the Year doesn’t say she goes to work, she says she goes to school.
Fifth-grade teacher, Pat Pfeifer, has spent 30 of her 43 years of teaching at West Sedona School.
After four decades of teaching, Principal Lisa Hirsch describes Pfeifer as “fresh, exciting and innovative.”
“Her kids know where they stand and they want to achieve,” Hirsch said. “She will do whatever it takes to teach her students not only academic content, but also life skills.”
By the time she was 6, Pfeifer, growing up in a suburb of Chicago, knew she would be a teacher.
Without meaning to, she studied her own teachers along with her lessons and made a mental checklist of what she would mimic someday.
At 17, her first pupil was her 6-year-old brother with a broken leg. Stuck at home for three months, Pfeifer was charged with bringing his homework to him and teaching him, then taking his work back to school the next day.
As a fifth-grade teacher she makes sure that each child is taught at their own level, adding in challenges for those who can handle it, she said.
The subjects she struggled with most as a student — social studies and math — are the ones she now enjoys teaching because she can understand why children have problems with them, Pfeifer said, and she tries to find ways to make the subjects easier to understand.
When the school librarian asked her students to write about Pfeifer, the comments she got back describe nothing less than Teacher of the Year:
“Ms. Pfeifer is an outstanding woman.” “I learn a lot from her.” “She is funny and reads us interesting books.” “When I become a teacher I want to be just like her.”
Pfeifer describes herself as strict but also likes to have fun with her students.
“I am strict but we are able to do a lot of laughing and joking,” she said. “Even if I have to scold them, they know it’s because I care about them.”
After 30 years at the same school, Pfeifer is starting to teach her former students’ children and now teaches side by side with two teachers that she once taught.
Pfeifer’s attitude is that all her students are capable learners, Hirsch said, and the results in her classroom prove that they are.
Hirsch analyzes state mandated test scores each year, and five years in a row, Pfeifer’s students’ scores top the district’s in reading, math and writing, she said.
After 43 years in the field, and struggling with migraines, Pfeifer reluctantly decided this year would be her last.
She wanted to go out on a high note, she said. Students, parents and coworkers agree that she has.
Alison Ecklund can be reached at 282-7795, ext. 125, or e-mail
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