I was born in Cortez, Colorado. If any of you are familiar with that small town on the Western Slope, I am truly impressed.  My father served 30 years in the military and my mother was a special education teacher for 25 years.

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Hobbies?  That’s a tough one because I now believe that my daughter’s hobbies have become my own; Legos, scrapbooking, and dancing in the living room.  When I do have down time, I enjoy a great magazine and the comforts of my back porch.

Listing a few of my favorite things is easy. My utmost favorite thing to do is my weekly Girls Night with my daughter, Taylor.  Every Wednesday for the past four years, we’ve dedicated that night to quality time with each other; no cell phones, no friends, no distractions.  I absolute adore coming home on Wednesdays! Fall is my absolute favorite season so as soon as the leaves change, I embrace the crisp autumn air, the slower pace in life, and a great cup of apple cider. Most of my favorite things include fall activities: baking anything that includes pumpkin, trips to the orchard and pumpkin patch, decorating for Halloween, and gathering around my loved ones for Thanksgiving. My new favorite thing is working at Arkansas Elementary. This place is a real treat and the kids make me laugh every single day. Laughter ranks high up there on my personal favorites chart.

Last year, the world lost one of the greatest female writers, Dr. Maya Angelou. If I had to narrow down my favorite book from her selection,  it would be “The Heart of a Woman.” I own a copy of every book she published and in times when I need inspiration and strength, I find myself sifting through the pages of a book until my fingers stop on just the right dose of written wisdom.  It comes to know surprise to my friends and family that one of Dr. Maya Angelou’s quotes is also my personal mantra: “When you know better, do better.”  Another quote that I cherish from her and reference a lot when interacting with adults is that “When people tell you who they really are, believe them.”

I love being an Arkansas Wildcat because our school has heart.  Every morning when I walk in the door, I can feel that we are all in the right place, at the right time, working in the right direction.  I do not believe, not even for a slight moment, that any child or staff member shows up to Arkansas with the intent to fail. Some days are better than others but our core intentions are to learn or teach something that benefits ourselves, our community, and shapes the future.  “Together, We Can” has power and is at the center of how we tackle everyday challenges.

As a mother, I continue to envy my daughter’s teachers. On a rare day, I am home by 4:30pm. By the time we settle down for dinner and finish homework on such days, the clock says 6:30pm.  Bedtime at the Petersen house is usually around 9:30pm so I get three hours to catch up with my daughter. Three hours while her teachers get 8 hours.  I take my role as principal of Arkansas seriously for I realize that spending 8 hours with your child is an honor.  I lead the building with the same guiding question, “Would this be good enough for my own child?” I lead with love, high expectations with high support, and do my best to exhibit enthusiasm about the learning process and being a Wildcat.

Every APS employee has a job description. Feel free to ask me what my job description is the next time we meet.  A job description should be more than words on paper, posted outside an office or classroom door.  It should serve as a walking, breathing mission statement. I tell the students on a daily basis how important it is for them to do their jobs as learners and how much I appreciate them doing their job with pride. My job as principal is included below. 

My job is to accelerate the learning of every APS student, every day. I do my job by ensuring that no matter which teacher a student has at Arkansas, he or she receives high-quality instruction and viable opportunities to grow. Together, we can shape a successful future and my community needs me to do my job.

Carpe Diem, Arkansas!

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Lori K. Petersen

Proud Principal of Arkansas Elementary