(From left) Mom-daughter team Teri and Katie Lyons are both teaching at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Alton.
ALTON — Enter the expansive hallway of Sts. Peter and Paul School and your attention immediately will be drawn to a large, light-filled classroom, colorfully decorated to spark the imagination of any 5-year-old.
This is the kindergarten classroom of Teri Lyons, who has been teaching at the school for 37 years. Continue up the stairs and through the doorway of a large purple-walled classroom. The microscope, test tubes, alligator head, butterfly display, snake skins and a myriad of materials that would pique the interest of any budding scientist leave no doubt that this is the classroom of Teri Lyons’ daughter, Katie Lyons, who has been teaching science at the school since 2010. The classrooms reflect the personalities of this mother-daughter teaching team.
Teri’s warm, caring, calm, creative qualities create a relaxed atmosphere in which young children can feel safe and secure and are able to express themselves. Katie’s outgoing, inquisitive, enthusiastic personality encourages middle school students to observe the world around them and discover how science influences that world.
When Teri graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 1978, she interviewed for teaching positions at St. Patrick’s School and Sts. Peter and Paul School. She quickly was offered a position at St. Patrick’s but held out hoping to hear from Sts. Peter and Paul’s. Two weeks later, Teri received a call from Father Peter Donohoe, pastor of Ss. Peter and Paul Church, offering her a position. She accepted immediately and has been teaching there ever since. Teri loves everything about the school. The 150-year-old school is steeped in history; the teachers are dedicated and caring; students are well-behaved and respectful; and there is a real sense of family.
“I love that the children are so close ... never hurting each other,” Teri says. “The school is a safe, happy kind of place.”
Particularly enjoyable for Teri is the imagination of her young students and the stories they make up.
“You never know what’s going to come out of their mouths,” she says.
Teri also loves watching her students learn to read and write, a process she describes as “awesome.” A big part of Teri’s job is assessing students’ vision and hearing so problems can be addressed early. Guiding tiny hands cutting out and stuffing paper animals to be displayed in the classroom’s rain forest, encouraging a student hesitating to read a new word, comforting a homesick child — it’s all in a day’s work for Teri.
Influenced by her mother’s love of teaching, Katie Lyons knew by the age of 6 that she wanted to be a teacher. Her favorite activity was playing “school.” Following in her mother’s footsteps, Katie graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a concentration in science and a middle school endorsement. Katie shares her mother’s love of Sts. Peter and Paul School, and so after graduating in December 2009, she began substituting at the school in January 2010. That summer Katie was running off copies for her mother when Principal Harry Cavanaugh offered her a part-time position teaching science to grades 5 through 8. She accepted on the spot. The following year, Katie was hired full time and given a homeroom. To Katie, herself a graduate of Sts. Peter and Paul School, teaching was like “coming home” to do something she loved. She welcomed the opportunity to give back by sharing her knowledge and love of science. Among Katie’s many accomplishments was the initiation of the school’s participation in the Science Fair her first year at the school. That very year, three of her students were sent to SIUE and won a special engineering award for their design of a hovercraft. Part of the award was a monetary gift, and in a spirit of giving typical of students, one of them donated his part of the award to the school for science materials. Katie particularly enjoys hands-on activities she does with her students and teaching how these apply to everyday life. She also believes science may offer students future job opportunities.
Both Teri and Katie love the fact that the students are polite and courteous, and that they are taught Christian values. They take pride in the fact that when they take their students to places like the Magic House or The Sheldon, they are told repeatedly how well-behaved the children are.
Teri and Katie Lyons are unique individuals and teaching together at the same school greatly benefits students.
“Teri and Katie Lyons epitomize the values we teach at Sts. Peter and Paul School,” Cavanaugh says.“They are active members of our parish and share their faith and their educational philosophy with their students. Students who graduate from our school get the ‘double whammy’ of educational excellence from this dynamic mother-daughter team.”