Teacher Feature – Elizabeth Peterson


School: Sycamore Middle School

Grade: 8th Grade

Subjects: Math & Science

Number of years teaching: 20 years

Farm Bureau/Ag Literacy connection: I have taken the Summer Ag Institute for Teachers (SAI) through the Farm Bureau and every year we take our students on the 8th Grade Farm Field Trip to surrounding farms.

What is your favorite unit to teach? I truly enjoy teaching chemistry to our students. We allow them to witness chemical reactions, create biodiesel, and balance chemical equations. Chemistry is in everything: cooking, polymers, soil, and more.

What is something unique that you do in your classroom? We create biodiesel from vegetable oil. The students learn about catalysts and even though the substances seem to be the same before and after the chemical reaction takes place, they are allowed to test the burn time of vegetable oil compared to the biodiesel they created and realize they have created an efficient fuel.

Why is it important for students to learn about food and farming? Students need to be aware of what and how food production and farming is accomplished in our nation. There are so many misconceptions about farming and with the students accessibility to media, having the real experience brings the information they are seeing to life. Farms are valuable and I think students need to realize that the soil is not like this everywhere in our country.

Words of advice to graduates? On an SAI trip to Larson farms, one of the farmers was describing how he went to the University of Illinois and studied agricultural science. I wondered how college helped him on the farm since he had grown up in the farming industry. He replied, “College taught me how to learn.” I use this quote in my classroom weekly. If I could give advice to the graduates it is that you should never stop learning. You have to learn how your brain learns. Also that in life you should do something that excites you, something that challenges you, and something that relaxes you. As my good friend Justin Hames says, “You have to take ahold of life before it takes ahold of you.”


Hometown: Aurora

Family: My husband Dan, of 20 years, and I have 3 kids, Ryan, Ella, and Ben. I grew up in a family of 5 with two older sisters. We always had animals in the house. My parents taught me the benefits of hard work and a love of the outdoors.

College/Degree(s): Bachelor of Science from NIU, Masters of Education in Reading from Benedictine University, and continuing education from my students every day.


Quote: “If it excites you and scares you at the same time, it might be a good thing to try.”

Hobbies: Hiking, volleyball, working out, cooking

Book: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Sports team: Chicago sports

Movie: “Good Will Hunting” – “How do you like them apples?”

Travel destination: Northern Wisconsin