English composition instructor devoted to lifelong learning
Originally from Edgerton, a town of 1,200 residents in Pipestone County in southwest Minnesota, Erica Peterson started teaching at Dakota County Technical College in 2010. Erica earned her Master of Arts (M.A.) in English from the University of South Dakota and her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English from Augustana College.
She teaches composition courses at DCTC—and loves learning right along with her students. As an instructor, Erica is focused on teaching course materials in ways that are compelling, purposeful and germane. She invites her students to explore composition topics in the context of current and historical events.
“There’s nothing I enjoy more than engaging with Composition students in this way: asking tough questions of our world,” Erica said. “Wrestling with issues both troubling and fascinating challenge them and me, and we grow together as the conversations deepen. It’s beyond rewarding to see my students’ logic, argumentation, and writing skills develop right there in real time. Mine do, too.”
More about Erica…
Erica and her husband, John, and have been together for 17 years, married for 12. They live on the family farm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, and John works in the family business, Ferndale Market, which raises and markets free-range turkeys and operates an on-farm store.
In 2012, Erica and John’s son, Finn, was born. The family also has two rescue pets: Sadie, a Labernard, or half Labrador retriever and half St. Bernard, and Janie, a standard tortoiseshell cat.
When she’s not teaching, Erica enjoys spending time with her family. “We call it ‘Pete Time’ because ‘Peterson Time’ doesn’t really have the same ring,” she said.
Erica also enjoys reading, playing piano and trumpet, having good conversations, cooking, hiking and walking, going to restaurants and musicals, and traveling.
Erica Peterson gallery
Photo info…Meeting Mickey Mouse: Trip to Disney World when Finn was 3.North Shore of Lake Superior: The North Shore is our favorite place to visit in Minnesota. When we come upon Duluth and see our first glimpse of gorgeous Lake Superior, my breathing changes. We love exploring all of the great hiking trails, as well as the restaurants up and down the shore.St. John, USVI: We have fallen head over heals in love with the U.S. Virgin Islands, which is two thirds national park, so the hiking is fantastic. The beaches aren’t bad, either!Los Angeles: Finn’s Aunt Katie lives in Los Angels; we had a ball hiking at Griffith Park last spring.With Finn on Mother’s Day: Photo taken May 2017.
Hamilton: We scored tickets in Chicago last spring. It was a dream come true.Finn and Sadie: Those two are buds. Finn loves to snuggle with her and read!Finding Ducklings in Boston: The book Make Way For Ducklings, a classic, takes place in Boston, where Finn’s Aunt Maren lives. She took us to the Boston Common to see the famous statue of the ducklings featured in the book. I love every second of being a book nerd!Summer boat rides: One of our favorite things to do in the summer is visit my parents’ cabin in southern Minnesota. I often say that we are probably the only Minnesotans who go south to go to the cabin.
Erica Peterson Q & A
What classes do you teach?
Mostly Composition, though I do teach an online version of Children’s Literature each summer, which is a joy.
Why are composition courses important for college students in any major?
People pay attention to those who articulate themselves well.
What is your teaching philosophy?
Critical thinking comes first. Good writing follows.
Three words that describe you as a teacher:
APPROACHABLE. CURIOUS. ENGAGED.
How do you balance your time between teaching and helping out at Ferndale Market?
Though I mostly focus on teaching and being a mom to our kindergartner, Finn, I delight in playing the role of a sounding board and cheerleader for the business. My husband, his parents, and our fantastic employees (both on the farm and in our on-farm store) take care of the day-to-day duties.
What do you like best about teaching?
If I’m not interested in the subject matter, I don’t expect my students to be. To that end, I teach the textbook material through the lens of topics (both current and historical) that feel relevant and interesting to all of us.
What do you like best about working in the family business?
Watching Finn and my husband go off to check on the turkeys together.
What is your toughest challenge in life?
Seeing suffering in the world and feeling utterly helpless.
We treat our turkeys like they’re part of the family. Because since 1939, they have been.
When Dale Peterson and his wife, Fern, first started growing turkeys on their Cannon Falls farm, they did it the only way they knew how—without shortcuts. Seventy-five years and three generations later, that philosophy hasn’t changed. We take pride in growing turkeys the way both our farm’s namesakes and nature intended—without the use of antibiotics or artificial growth promotants. Free-range during the warmer months. Fed their natural diet of grains, vitamins and minerals from a local feed mill. And processed naturally without additives.
And as shopkeepers, we seek out like-minded farmers and food producers using similar practices to stock our on-farm market. Real local food from real sustainable sources. We believe that if you’re going to do something, do it the right way. We thank you for choosing local foods from family farms like ours and we look forward to seeing you at Ferndale Market!
— Courtesy of Ferndale Market
Your greatest accomplishment?
My son is a bookworm!
Your highest goal?
Make people feel better, not worse. (And feed the birds, always.)
What do like best about the English language?
Spoonerisms. They’re a family joke. My father and I go back and forth trading spoonerisms.
[Note: According to Wikipedia, “A spoonerism is an error in speech or deliberate play on words in which corresponding consonants, vowels, or morphemes are switched between two words in a phrase. Spoonerisms are named for the Oxford don and ordained minister, William Archibald Spooner.” For example, an effective spoonerism will tickle your bunny phone.]
Erica Peterson | 21 Answers
- Favorite season: Fall
- Favorite natural feature (e.g., waterfalls, oceans, mountains, etc.): Fjords
- Favorite sport or physical activity: Walks in the woods with my 110-pound rescue dog, Sadie. She’s a beautiful and loving Labernard (½ yellow lab, ½ St. Bernard)
- Your national bird if you could have one: Ruby-throated hummingbird
- Place you would most like to visit: Outer space—I like the idea of looking back at Earth
- Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving
- Your national mammal if you could have one: African lion
- Favorite actor or actress: Andy Samberg/Kristen Wiig
- Favorite band or performing artist: Broadway pit musicians
- Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Make people feel better, not worse.”
- Coolest thing in the world: Libraries
- Scariest thing in the world: Nuclear winter, antibiotic resistance, and mayo-based salads left out for too long at summer picnics
- Favorite all-time TV show: Saturday Night Live
- Favorite all-time movie: I have two: Love Actually (2003) and Great Expectations (1998)
- One thing you most want to accomplish in life: To raise my son to be kind, empathetic, and funny (oh, and to read every book on my list!)
- Most precious material possession: My piano, which belonged to my grandmother. In the 1950s, she received an allowance from my grandfather each week for groceries. After putting money away little by little, she ended up purchasing the piano so that her children could take lessons. I’m honored to have it now, and I play it most nights.
- First thing you would buy if you won the $1.5 billion Powerball: My standard answer to the “what would you do if you won the lottery?” question has always remained the same: I’d go to school forever. I’m fascinated by the social sciences (one of my regrets is that I didn’t double major in English and sociology in college), as well as political science and history.
- Dream occupation: To play Angelica Schuyler in the Broadway hit Hamilton
- Person you would most like to meet: I wish I could have met the brilliant writer, David Foster Wallace, who died tragically and way too soon.
- Skill you would most like to learn and master: In 5th grade, I chose to play the clarinet, and although I enjoyed it, I always wished I would have picked the trumpet instead. This past summer, I decided to make it right, and now I’m in my fourth month of lessons. It’s never too late!
- Humankind’s greatest challenge: Peace
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