Rural Missouri - February 2018 - 36

RM

| NEIGHBORS

A Passion
for Teaching

Science is a way of life for Juanita Peaslee
Juanita Peaslee has been teaching for the Crest Ridge R-VII School District for nearly six decades. The 84-year-old science teacher keeps science fun by continuing to be a curious student herself.

by Heather Berry | hberry@ruralmissouri.coop

While studying the spider, Juanita discovered a new species of tiny wasp
that was devoring her spider eggs. Her college professor, and entomologist,
could identify the family but not the genus or species. So he sent an example
uanita Peaslee doesn't get squeamish about much. She has a real human
to a friend with the Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., who then
skeleton she calls "Indiana Bones" hanging in a closet, as well as an
sent it on to an entomologist in Great Britain.
insect collection including more than 2,000 specimens.
"I didn't get to name it or get credit for identifying it, but my name's on a
What else would you expect from someone who's taught science class
paper somewhere in science. That's enough for me."
for 55 years?
Lucky for her, she and her spouse didn't have arachnophobia, as the next
"I better add a disclaimer that I don't love snakes, but I endure them,"
several years involved raising spiders from eggs to adults, as well as not mindJuanita says. "If there's a snake loose around here, I'm
ing those that got loose in the house.
the one who usually gets called to catch it. But I can't
"My husband was very supportive," says Juanita. "Since he was an artist,
bend as quickly as I used to, so I just brush them into a
he even drew any images I needed for my paper."
trash can and take them outside."
Juanita is a science instructor at Crest Ridge High School
The teacher's affinity for spiders continued to grow after completing
her paper - a fondness which is evident to everyone who spends any
in Centerview. The 84 year old began her career there in 1964
Centerview
time in Juanita's classroom. Spiders, both real and fake, large and
teaching sixth through eighth grades, then later moved to the
small, can be found intermingled among the hundreds of science
10th through 12th grade classes she currently instructs.
books, boxed insects and other projects in her teaching lab.
"My husband was from Boston, so after we married, I taught
"Science doesn't have to be boring," she says, smiling. "I'm curious
one year there before we decided to come back to Missouri,"
by nature, so I just take that curiousity into the classroom with me."
says the West Central Electric Cooperative member. "He was an
artist for Hallmark and I began teaching for the Centerview district."
In her more than five decades of teaching, Juanita says she's been
blessed to be part of a great group of teachers.
Juanita says she and her brothers attended a one-room schoolhouse not
"I'm just one of many people who've influenced some wonderful students
far from where she now teaches. When she graduated from high school in
1951 she didn't want to stay home and start a family right away like many along the way," she says. "Many have gone on to be teachers, doctors, lawyers,
engineers and a lot of good ol' moms and dads.
other girls chose to do then.
"You never know who you're going to teach," she continues. "One former
"Maybe I was a little rebellious," Juanita reflects, "but I wanted to go to colstudent is a B-2 pilot and another works at NASA. Another young lady got
lege. But going to college back then pretty much meant being a teacher, nurse
accepted to Yale on a full-ride scholarship and then on to Harvard for her
or secretary for a woman."
The headstrong young woman attended Central Missouri State University postdoctorate."
For students considering teaching as a career, Juanita offers this advice:
in Warrensburg where she received her teaching degree and later, a master's
"Don't expect to get rich, you have to put up with some nonsense and you have
in biology. Juanita also now teaches dual credit science classes via interactive
to love what you do or otherwise it's just a job."
television to college students from several other districts.
"I move slower these days, but I still love what I do," she says, "I just plan
When it came time for Juanita to choose a thesis topic, her professor handto teach until I no longer can."
ed her a list of ideas to consider - one of those being spiders.
Juanita pauses, then bends down and picks up what looks like a piece of
"I just kept coming back to spiders because I loved anything do with
black thread.
nature," she says. "I literally knew nothing about spiders. Back then, I proba"Oh, it's just a beetle leg," she says, placing it into a box. "They glue back
bly thought they were insects like everyone else seems to think."
on, no problem."
Juanita soon found herself crawling around caves and dark, dank basements to find captivating spiders to study. "I found an interesting little web
You may contact Mrs. Peaslee via email at jpeaslee@crestridge.org or by mail
builder that was different than the average garden spider," the teacher recalls.
at Crest Ridge High School, Attn: Juanita Peaslee, 92 NW 58 Highway, Center"Its name has been changed several times, but it's called Uloborus octonarius
view, MO 64019.
and I found them in an elevator in Warrensburg."

J

36

RURAL MISSOURI | FEBRUARY 2018



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - February 2018

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Rural Missouri - February 2018 - Cover3
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