by Jim Mulligan
If you’ve attended any local sporting events in the last few years, or been to a birthday party with some amazing cupcakes, or taken a Communication class at Reedley College anytime within the last 25 years, you may very well have made the acquaintance of Jenny Peters. Peters is an exuberant sports fan, especially when one of her kids is on the field or in the pool representing Reedley High School and Reedley College. If you haven’t had the pleasure of eating one of her sumptuous cake creations, I implore you to make that a priority in your life. And of course, if you are planning to take a course in Communication at Reedley College, you will be both challenged and encouraged to step out of your comfort zone and explore your public speaking abilities with her as your instructor. I recently took some time to communicate, pun intended, with Jenny Peters in order to highlight her dedication to Reedley College and the community of Reedley.
KRL: You seem to go by a few different names at the college. Can you explain?
JP: Officially I’m Mrs. Graber-Peters, but many students call me Mrs. Peters or Professor Peters. I usually tell them they can leave out the Graber, because when I first became a teacher, I had published articles and a textbook so I wanted to keep my last name. Now, I don’t really care and I have even thought of officially changing my name to Peters only. Many students just call me Mrs. P., especially students who I see over and over in our major. It is simple and easy.
KRL: Anyone who knows you might think you are a Reedley-ite born and raised, but I understand you are not a life-long Reedley resident. Tell us a little about your life before Reedley.
JP: I was born in Oakland, CA, and I’ve lived in Fountain Valley, which is near Huntington Beach, as well as in San Diego when I briefly attended SDSU. I also lived in Bass Lake for about a year when I first started teaching for the State Center Community College district. Since then, I have been in Reedley. But I’ve lived in Reedley since 1996. I attended Golden West College (a community college in Huntington Beach) for a year and then San Diego State and CSU, Long Beach for the remainder of my Bachelors and Masters degrees.
KRL: So what brought you to Reedley?
JP: Well, I was offered a job teaching at Reedley College. I didn’t even know where Reedley was, but I knew Fresno because I had frequented Bass Lake. I took the job and actually moved to Reedley after a year of working at several different colleges in the area. I’m glad I took the job and made my way to Reedley because that’s how I met my husband.
KRL: Sounds like you are pretty happy about that decision to come to Reedley. Tell us a little about your husband.
JP: Matt and I have been married for 22 years. He is my best friend and I truly enjoy spending time with him. We met at Kelly’s [Beach], of all places. This is always a fun conversation when we are together because he lies and tells people he was my student. This is obviously not true, but in the spirit of fun, I let him tell his fake story anyway. It’s always good for a laugh or two. Matt is a Fire Captain for Selma Fire and has been with them for 16 years. Before that he was a volunteer for Reedley Fire and worked many years as a paramedic for Sequoia Safety Council. One interesting tidbit is that Matt delivered two of our three children and his name is on their birth certificates, in addition to being their father.
KRL: I’ve mentioned how much you like watching your kids while they participate in sports. Tell us a little about your kids.
JP: Matt and I have three children who are young adults now. Emily is 21 and a Senior at Biola University. She is studying Kinesiology and wants to be a sports trainer for a professional team someday. Katelyn is 19 and a Sophomore at Reedley College. She played for the women’s soccer team at Reedley College and will be transferring after this semester with a degree in Communication. Daniel is 16 and a Junior at RHS. He is currently restoring a ‘57 Chevy pick-up with his dad and grandfather. When he is not in school or working on his pickup, he is boarding down the slopes of China Peak or doing tricks on his skateboard.
KRL: I’ve hinted at some of your other interests and talents. Besides work and your kids’ activities, what do you do in your spare time?
JP: I have been a baker for as long as I can remember. I bake cakes, cupcakes and other treats occasionally for friends’ special events. I LOVE to read. Last year I read three dozen books from March to December. This year I want to at least meet that goal but also read only books from the library, on my shelf, or that are borrowed—or gifted. I plan to buy not a single book this year. I also love to travel and cannot wait to be able to jump on a plane again and head to Europe with my girls. We are planning a trip after Emily graduates from college.
KRL: I know you are quite involved in some community service activities; tell us about that.
JP: I volunteer with Serve Reedley, through various ministries at church, and occasionally on campus with the Tiger Pantry. In the past, I also helped with the Online Information Center (OIC) as well as with the First Reedley College Athletics banquet and fundraiser.
KRL: Why is this type of work important to you?
JP: My faith is very important to me. I am perfectly imperfect and try each day to learn something new or be better than the day before. I know life is short and is not promised for any of us. I try my best to live life fully, loving others and cherishing each moment I am given. When there is a bump in the road or a “plot twist” in my story, I know it is all part of the adventure and trust in God’s plan and timing.
KRL: You’ve also been quite dedicated to the students of Reedley College. How long have you been teaching?
JP: I started at Reedley College as an adjunct faculty member in Communication in August 1996. I taught on the Reedley Campus, in Madera and in Oakhurst. I was also teaching at COS at the time. In August of 2019, I began my full-time career in the Communication Program at Reedley College. This is my 25th year teaching for SCCCD and my 27th year overall. This is my second year as a full-time instructor.
KRL: Why a Communication teacher? Do you have any mentors who inspired you?
JP: My mentor in college was my Communication Professor, Rosemary Swade. She had such a love for Communication and made each day in her class both an adventure and a learning experience. I have a few personal mentors who hold me accountable and encourage me to be a better wife, mother, teacher and friend. These women have been so important in my life and have guided me through the highs and the lows. My students are my inspiration. So many of them face challenges that might detour the average person; and yet they persist, one class at a time, one challenge at a time. I have watched some of my best students juggle school, a job, parenting, etc., and still excel in my class. These are the students who do extra credit, ask questions, connect with a tutor, and visit office hours. They persist despite all the bumps in the road. They are my inspiration to be better each day.
Whether you know Jenny Peters as an instructor at Reedley College or from one of the many activities she participates in around Reedley, you know that she is dedicated to her family, work, and community.
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