At Bing Nursery School, children are “honored guests,” welcomed by devoted teachers and invited to play inside light-filled classrooms or outside on a sprawling terrain of hills with rabbit hutches, fruit trees and play structures – independently, with friends, or with a teacher.

Mary-Peck Peters

Mary Peck-Peters says her days as head teacher at Bing Nursery School are filled with rewarding moments generated by children. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

One of those teachers is Mary-Peck “Peckie” Peters, a 2019 recipient of an Amy J. Blue Award which honors staff members who are exceptionally dedicated, supportive of colleagues and passionate about their work.

Peters, a head teacher at the school, is committed to the mission of the Bing Nursery School, a program within the School of Humanities and Sciences. The school’s goal is to promote an understanding of child development and improve the lives of young children by providing a setting for research; teaching undergraduate students through seminars, observations and hands-on experiences; providing an exemplary program of play-based, child-centered education; and engaging parents and educators to promote best practices.

“It’s a nice framework, because you don’t give your honored guests everything they want, you try to help them maximize their experience,” said Peters, who goes by the childhood nickname “Peckie” among friends and colleagues, and “Teacher Peckie” among honored guests and their parents. She joined the school in 2000.

“She is beloved in our community, not only by her colleagues, but most notably by the children and families whose lives she touches in deep and meaningful ways,” one colleague wrote. “I have heard parents describe Teacher Peckie as magical, amazing, incredible, invaluable – the list goes on. She puts her whole heart and soul into her calling as an early childhood educator.”

Another person wrote, “Children flock to her and she respects them as competent, capable human beings.”

Mary-Peck Peters

Mary-Peck Peters and her fellow Amy J. Blue Award winners will be honored at an April 30 ceremony on campus. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

“Put simply, Peckie is magical,” another said. “I have often observed her interactions with children and wondered, ‘how on earth does she do that,’ whether it was resolving a conflict between four-year-olds or coaxing a remarkable story about pirates and monsters out of a previously reserved child. Peckie approaches her life and her work with openness and curiosity, always looking toward the positive and valuing strengths over deficits.”

Peters is one of three Stanford employees recently named 2019 Amy J. Blue Award winners. The other recipients are Laura Dominguez Chan, associate dean of career education and director of career communities at Stanford Career Education, and Heidi Marisol López, finance assistant and graduate fellowship coordinator at the Center for Comparative Studiers in Race and Ethnicity.

President Marc Tessier-Lavigne will present the awards at an April 30 ceremony for the winners and their families, friends and colleagues. The event will be held from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in the courtyard of Lagunita Court, located at 326 Santa Teresa St.

Oh, I do know how to write words!

Peters, who earned a bachelor’s degree in human biology at Stanford, earned a master’s degree in special education at Boston University. Before returning to the Farm, she taught kindergarten in Vale, Colorado.

She said her days are filled with rewarding moments generated by children, as in a recent conversation with a four-year-old girl who had just finished drawing a picture of a girl.

“Do you know that I don’t know how to write words?” the girl said.

“I didn’t know that,” Peters replied. “Now I guess I do.”

“So now I don’t know what to do,” the girl said.

“Are you trying to write some words now?” Peters said.

“Yes,” the girl replied, stopping to ponder the situation.

“Were you thinking you wanted to write a word about her?” Peters said, pointing to the drawing.

“Yes,” the girl said, and then began writing letters – P, H, I, L, T, R.

“Is that her name, Philtr?”

“Yes. Oh! I do know how to write words.”

“You do know how to write words and now we’re both surprised, because you didn’t know you could write words and I didn’t know you could write words, and you just started writing and you made this word.”

“Well, I do practice at home – this much,” the girl said, extending her arms wide.

Mentor to teachers, advocate for children

At Bing, Peters serves as the head teacher in two classrooms – one for two-year-old children, and another for three to five year olds.

“As a head teacher, Peckie consistently and simultaneously presents herself as an equal team member, a mentor, a cheerleader and a friend,” a colleague wrote in a nomination letter. “She comes in early and stays late, taking on extra work to be sure that no burden falls on anyone else. She supports what teachers are passionate about, guides them to improve their skills and encourages them to achieve their personal best.”

Jennifer Winters, director of Bing Nursery School and a lecturer in the Department of Psychology, said Peters often receives end-of-quarter ovations from students enrolled in “Development of Early Childhood,” a seminar Peters has co-taught at the nursery school.

“Peckie is a strong advocate for all children and passionate in her conviction that early childhood teachers can make a difference that will last a lifetime for a young child,” Winters wrote. “She has a way of intently listening and being present that helps calm even the most distraught child. Her compassion and support for children with special needs is boundless. She is willing to do whatever it takes to help a child and their family receive the support they need in and out of the classroom.”

The awards were established in memory of Amy J. Blue, an associate vice president for administrative services and facilities who died of brain cancer in May 1988. The awards are accompanied by a $4,000 prize.