Dorothy Peters learned to drive a tractor as a little girl on her grandfather’s farm in Sussex County, Virginia. He let her drive, with the assuring words, “You’ve got an open field, so there’s nothing to crash into.” The philosophy has never left her. While Dorothy’s life hasn’t had clear fields everywhere, she has confidently pursued her dreams. She became an educator and learning disabilities consultant, and for more than 3 decades, she encouraged students to embrace learning fearlessly, always believe in yourself, and seek to expand your knowledge, for it will take you far.
When Dorothy was 12, she left the farm and moved to Richmond, where she graduated from high school at the age of 17 (voted “Most Pleasing Personality”), and then, for a year, went off to college in Lawrenceville, not very far. She couldn’t afford to complete her studies, but she knew that the only way she could fulfill any of her dreams would be to complete college and get an advanced degree. She knew she needed to get away, to make enough money for college. Clear fields or not, the only way she could reach her dreams was to go out and grab them.
So at the age of 18, never having left home before, she went to New York City. She grabbed the first job available and became a live-in nanny for a wealthy family in Bellmore, Long Island. She adored the children. They loved her and she loved them. Yet after a few months, Dorothy was exhausted and unhappy. Everything came to a head when she was supposed to serve more than a 100 guests for a Jewish celebration at the home. It was clear to her that being a nanny and fulfilling all its obligations was not what she truly wanted. When the mother, who was an understanding and generous woman, asked Dorothy what was the matter, Dorothy explained that she couldn’t do the job and that she was doing the nanny work not because she loved the work but to get back into college. The mother had noticed how well Dorothy handled the children and realized that she would be an excellent teacher. She allowed Dorothy to leave and helped her out.
So Dorothy’s cousin came to pick her up and take her to New Jersey, where she would take a job with the New Jersey Bell telephone company. At 19, she fell in love and got married, but her husband didn’t want her to return to school. It was a bad sign for the marriage, which wouldn’t last. But Dorothy was still saving money, and finally she got back to college, gaining her Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Fairleigh Dickinson University. It took just 3 years because they accepted her credits from the college in Lawrenceville. Dorothy graduated magna cum laude.
Dorothy did her student teaching internship in Newark Public Schools, a system with a reputation for tough students. Dorothy, however, was a teacher whom students could easily love and respect. She commanded attention and the students in her first grade class just waited for her to give them instructions—no problem. In fact, Dorothy handled her class so well that she was hired even before completing her insternship. Shortly after a principal came in to observe her, she was hired on the spot and offered a contract to teach first grade in the Orange, NJ, school district.
While teaching during the day, she continued her studies, gaining a Master of Arts in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Montclair State University, where she graduated summa cum laude. In the meantime, she had acquired not only her license to be a learning disabilities consultant but also a license to be a Special Needs educator, continuing to teach 1st grade and then special needs in Orange for 15 years.
The culmination of her dreams, she would receive her New Jersey license to become a Learning Disabilities Consultant, and for 15 dedicated years, she would work as part of the East Orange school system’s Child Studies Team, a 3-person team composed of a school psychologist, a clinical social worker, and Dorothy. Together the team has 90 days for each case, to test the child for learning or behavioral disabilities and then see to the child’s placement in the most appropriate program.
While working on the team, Dorothy also found ways to continue teaching. For 8 years, she taught English to students struggling with the language, teaching night classes at two of New Jersey’s well known community colleges in Essex and Bergen. She also established DP’s Learning Center, providing private tutoring as well as testing for cognitive abilities and academic achievement, frequently needed by the courts for academic evaluations.
Always reaching for new experiences, both personal and professional, Dorothy also started her own singing group, Sonny and Company, a 4-piece band in which she sang hits of Dionne Warwick, Barbra Streisand, and other popular artists. She even had her own singing coach, but the singing career didn’t materialize, as Dorothy’s focus turned to raising her children. Today, her two boys are living successful lives—one, as an EDI manager/computer analyst in Pennsylvania; the other, working in the Development Department at the University of Florida.
Wanting to make a greater difference in children’s lives, she began pursuing a doctorate in educational administration to become a school superintendant, earning 33 credits towards her goal before an illness forced her to retire early.
Dorothy has semi-retired to Short Pump, Virginia, a suburb of Richmond. She’s a member of the New Jersey Association of Learning Consultants, and she continues to offer private tutoring. A steadfast advocate for children and young adults, she is a supporter of the Children’s Hospital
of Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond Symphony, Museum of Fine Arts, PBS, Meals on Wheels, and so on. She also loves to travel and to go to movies, and she’s an avid reader, especially of forensic science (if she could have another life, she says she would want to be a forensic pathologist).
The fields for Dorothy Peters have not all been smooth—with 2 unsuccessful marriages—but she has driven through them all, always reaching for her dreams, and along the way, she has produced an outstanding career as an educator and a mother to two successful children—but not a singing career…yet. Her guiding philosophy has always been that children learn what they live—give them a positive learning environment and they can accomplish anything they set their minds to, so long as are provided with the tools to do so.