Denise Ferguson has taught at St. Peter & St. Paul School, Alta Loma, for six years. Previously, she has taught in both public schools and other Catholic schools. She currently teaches kindergarten but has also taught second, third, fourth and fifth grades.
As part of our series on Catholic School teachers in the Diocese, Ferguson sat down with the BYTE to tell us a little about herself and her life as a teacher at St. Peter & St. Paul.
BYTE: What do you like about teaching kindergarten?
Ferguson: This is my first year here in kinder, and I think I found my love, my passion. Every grade has their own special component, and this is where my heart is, with kinder.
It’s the playfulness, their excitement to learn. And I’m building that foundation for learning, but also for their faith.
Being a product of Catholic education for 12 years, putting my kids through Catholic school, and now being an educator in Catholic school, faith is the foundation, and it’s just a blessing to have the opportunity to be a part of that.
Another thing I love is that this year was the first year we were able to do the buddies with the eighth graders and the kindergarteners. To see that connection between the little ones and the older ones, it’s just been a special moment.
BYTE: Could you explain a little more about that, the eighth grade and kindergarten buddies?
Ferguson: We try to do an activity together at least once a month. For example, we did bubbles, where the eighth graders helped to make the bubble mixture. The eighth grade students help guide and create the projects with the kids. For Saints, when all our students dressed as Saints and they had to do a little report, we actually did a Saint tea, where the eighth graders served the kinders a little tea party themed around Saints.
When we read at church in January, kinders usually start reading in church for school Masses. And I have one of the buddies stand with the kids reading at the altar, just in case they need help, just to guide them and just kind of be that moral support. And that’s really what it is, to be there for the little ones to guide them.
BYTE: What inspired you to go into teaching in the first place?
Ferguson: I can go back to when I was a kid – a long, long time ago, when I was in elementary school, I had some great teachers. I always think what inspired me is the teachers that I had in the past, even though it was a long time ago. I remember their influence and their support and that I wanted to be like them.
BYTE: Moving on to COVID, how was it teaching during the pandemic?
Ferguson: It wasn’t easy. But I’m very routine, very structured, and so I tried my best to maintain that structure throughout the school year, even though we were on distance learning.
It was always difficult because there’s so much more that you can do in person and interact with the kids more when they’re here in class. It’s very difficult to demonstrate the different things that we were learning about and to share, because technology wasn’t always working. It was definitely a challenge, but we worked through it, and I think our kids were all just amazing. They persevered through it all. We had our struggles, but they never gave up; they constantly worked hard to meet their goals throughout the school year.
BYTE: The last question is just a little bit about you: What do you like to do in your free time?
Ferguson: I love the desert and I love the water. So that’s where I go, and I look forward to my summers. Everybody here knows that I work very hard for my summers, you know, putting in a lot of hours. My free time is consumed with school, but I also know that I need to set aside time for me and my family, and we enjoy life. We enjoy our weekends, we enjoy our free time, just playing in the dirt or playing in the water.