PJStar Spotlight: Thrilled to be 'abnormal' in Peoria's public schools

waldo We need to change the dialogue surrounding Peoria Public Schools.

Judgments are often passed about administrators, teachers and students by individuals who merely form their opinions based on news stories, the district's demographics and standardized test scores. The real truth about the district should be revealed by personal testimonials. Here's my brief story.

Without knowing any other way, I carried this workload into college, where I graduated in three years while also balancing the responsibilities of college soccer, a job, and being an officer in several student groups. Many of my college peers questioned why I was so heavily involved in activities. That was my "normal," and that was how I and my childhood friends grew up. It wasn't until I was surrounded by students who came from outside Peoria's public schools that I realized we were actually the "abnormal" ones.

At no point in my college career did I feel like my K-12 education failed me. Between the teachers who purposefully trained us with skills for life outside of school and the diversity to which I had been exposed, I always felt like the most prepared student in all of my college classes. 

I was blessed to get a job with Caterpillar. Before I knew it, I was living in Indiana. When we moved back to Peoria, my wife and I knew there was only one place we wanted our daughter to attend school. After refusing to give in to the social pressure to move to the "normal" relocation areas, we were thrilled to be "abnormal" and buy a home within the Peoria school district boundaries.

The most useful reviews of any product come from those who actually own one, so why are we listening to people who don't?

Michael Waldo is an accountant with Caterpillar Inc. He lives in Peoria.