Catherine Peterson of Bloomington, Ind., has received an Outstanding Global Campus Student Award from the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees. She is an online graduate student who will earn a master's degree in educational administration/supervision at NMU's May 6 commencement.
NMU's Global Campus has allowed Peterson to continue working at Bloomington High School South teaching freshman earth science and biology classes while taking classes and working toward her degree.
“I love the flexibility that the Global Campus offers,” Peterson said. “As a teacher who works between 40-60 hours a week, the ability to decide which days to spend on my academic work was so necessary. A teacher's schedule fluxes and varies so much that sometimes traditional colleges can be too tight schedule-wise.”
Peterson was nominated for the award by Bethney Bergh, an associate professor of NMU's School of Education. She said that Bergh is an "all star" who has a great deal of real-world public education experience that she brings into every class she teaches. Peterson also said that she had the good fortune to have most of her graduate classes taught by Bergh and benefited from her feedback, support and engaging course assignments.
“NMU has amazing professors and they want to help you,” Peterson says. “They will be your strongest supporters, best career guides and biggest cheerleaders. When you get to sit down during office hours and get tutoring from an expert, someone who's at the top of their field, that's big. I think students sometimes don't realize that it's not like that at every university.”
This is actually Peterson's second degree from NMU. She previously attended in person, graduating in May of 2020 with a bachelor's degree in secondary education-integrated science with a concentration in earth science and a minor in history. Her passion for teaching started in the 8th grade, when she volunteered for a reading buddy program her English teacher helped run.
“They send middle school students to go read with second graders to increase their confidence,” Peterson said. “I did that program because my teacher asked me to and I was eager to help out. The program was Mondays and Wednesdays after my school let out. I got my mom and dad to immediately pick me up and drop me off at the volunteer spot since I was like, ‘Okay, she said right after school.' So I got there and she said, ‘Oh, you're early for what we expect.'”
Since she arrived so early, Peterson's teacher had her go around the classroom and help students with their writing assignments before they began the reading buddy program. In doing that, she developed a passion for helping students learn and became a regular classroom helper even after the program was over.
“The more I spent time there, the more I realized this was what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be around kids and help them,” Peterson said. “I wanted a career that has a deep meaning so I could look back and see that I made a difference over the course of my life. I think humans are meant to live lives of purpose, and that we feel fulfilled when we're engaging in purposeful actions and serving others. So that's a big draw to this career. On my best day, I'm making a difference. On my worst day, I'm making a difference. I'm helping my community each and every day.”
Peterson had family from Marquette. Her grandpa was an NMU alumnus from 1954. While she didn't grow up in the Upper Peninsula, Peterson spent enough time on her grandparents' Lake Superior property to fall in love with the area. It seemed only right to her that she went to college in the U.P. as well.
“Northern was this beautiful blend of the U.P. that I loved, but it also has this high-ranking, high-quality education program,” Peterson said. “It produces good teachers who pass their licensure. I had an awesome experience. I even got to know and talk to the dean of the School of Education, which is just something I feel you don't get at other places. After graduation, the School of Education was still reaching out and offering graduate seminars and ways to stay connected, and that was big for me.”
NMU's commencement will begin at 10:30 a.m. in the Superior Dome. It will be live streamed at nmu.edu/commencement and broadcast on WNMU-TV13.