Eleanora Peters went to a parochial school through third grade, and then her mother decided to homeschool her and her five younger siblings.
That meant a lot of independent work – and that she could dive deeply into any subject that interested her. She discovered a passion for medieval European coats of arms, and soon she was drawing them for herself and her friends.
Eventually, Peters parlayed her design skills into an internship at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, where she double-majored in graphic design and English. But then she discovered something else: “I don’t love sitting behind a computer all day by myself.”
So, she moved back home to Stoneham, Massachusetts, got a job at Staples and looked for an internship that would help her figure out a different career. She applied for one in the Boston Museum of Science’s Education Department, working on their school and youth programs, and got it.
“I’ve been going to the Museum of Science since I was a kid, so it was always a dream to get inside,” she says.
Every Monday, Peters and a staff member would visit a second-grade classroom in the Boston Public Schools, read a story to the children to introduce their upcoming field trip, and answer their questions. Every Tuesday, she would accompany the same class as they visited the museum.
She enjoyed the internship so much that she applied to UMass Lowell as an education major.
“I always loved working with kids, and working at the museum gave me that hands-on experience,” she says. “I tried it, I loved it, and I haven’t looked back.”
Her sister Regina, an honors biology major, was already studying at UMass Lowell, and Peters was attracted by the School of Education’s dual certification program for elementary education and teaching children with mild to moderate disabilities. (Younger sisters Rose, a junior, and Margaret, a first-year student, are now honors biology students at UML as well.)
Determined to get the most out of her time at UML, Peters joined the Honors College, added minors in English and history and took extra classes in summer to meet all her requirements in three years. To gain more classroom experience, she worked as an aide at a parochial school in Lowell as a junior.
As a senior, she’s student-teaching in a third-grade classroom at Dolbeare Elementary School in Wakefield, Massachusetts, and taking advantage of UML’s bachelor’s-to-master’s program by taking two graduate classes toward a Master of Education degree in curriculum and instruction.
She’s also doing research. Using a $1,500 Honors College Student Fellowship, Peters is helping Education Prof. Patricia Fontaine to create an educational walking tour for Lowell National Historical Park on World War II industries in the city, such as a textile mill that made white twill cloth for Navy uniforms.
Peters is leaning toward a career in special education. But for her final honors project, she is creating enrichment materials for children in her third-grade class who learn quickly. And she’s modeling it on her homeschooling experience.
“I like working with kids who might be having a harder time, but I also feel that the students who are high-flyers can be more productive if you give them specific books to read and extension activities on different themes, have them track it and incentivize them,” she says.
“My homeschool experience inspired me to love education. I want to provide some of that personalized experience for my students.”