Rebecca Packard won the HUSD Governing Board Recognition of Excellence Award for September
■ Corey Evan / Reporter
Schools may be different in small towns, but the commitment necessary is just the same. Rebecca Packard, middle school history teacher at Cottonwood K-8 School in Aguanga, knows this well and now knows what it’s like to be recognized for her work. Packard received the Hemet Unified School District Governing Board’s Recognition of Excellence Award for the month of September, as selected by Trustee Megan Haley.
Packard says she was caught off-guard in receiving the award: “It’s quite an honor, because it’s one out of many qualified (teachers). I wasn’t expecting it, I was surprised.”
Packard says her life’s journey didn’t initially steer her toward education.
“I got into teaching quite by accident; I got into teaching because I started volunteering at a school when I was in my late twenties,” she recalled. “I was bored during my lunch break; I was working for a contractor. The next thing I know, I was hired as an aide. The next thing I know, they hired me to be a teacher. I just needed to do something in the service area.”
Packard, who has a bachelor of arts in political science, ended up teaching history, again by accident, but also because it’s near to her heart.
“I always enjoy politics and history and when the opportunity came to teach at that level I took it,” she said. “I had been teaching first grade and fourth grade here at Cottonwood for many years, but I thought ‘Why not try it?’ And I love it! I absolutely love it.”
And her experience with the middle school crowd has been a blast, says Packard. “They are hysterical. They are fun. They are goofy. They’re engaging. They’re awesome.”
Packard says that students can learn a lot from such historical events as the Jamestown settlers, because those kinds of events still happen even today: “The lessons are right there. We just had Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and the earthquake down in Mexico. What do you need to survive? Why do we read about that? And those are important lessons about…how to be in the world. I always try to find something to relate (the material) to current events.”
And with a polarizing political climate, students need to know about civics and how to conduct themselves in a way that respects the views of others.
“For the last couple of years that has been a major priority of mine,” said Packard, “to have kids learn how to have conversations without the heat and the anger that sometimes… they bring.”
Packard has yet to determine how the $500 certificate included with her award will be spent, but has several ideas, including benches for the middle schoolers or a locked bulletin board to recognize students’ achievements.
Above all else, Packard is grateful to her students, her fellow teachers and the district for getting her to where she is today.
“It’s just a real privilege to be put in this position, and to be recognized by the board,” said Packard. “It’s a thrill, my kids are asking about the clock (the award) and congratulate me on that. It’s just a privilege and an honor to be a teacher here.”