“I feel like it’s what I was born to do,” said Petteys in a recent interview. “It’s my calling.”
Petteys, who has been teaching Spanish somewhere since the day she stepped out of college at Georgia South-ern, said her love for the language actually began at an early age. She said she remembers being intrigued at how effortlessly and easy learning the language came for her during her years at Sprayberry High School in Marietta. She also credits a very special Spanish teacher she had for planting the seed that has grown into a lifelong ambi-tion.
“There was just something about the way Mrs. Bohacek loved the language,” said Petteys. “She made it so excit-ing and told us stories about all these other countries. I loved being in her class and I think it led me down the path to exploring Spanish as a career.”
Petteys taught at several middle schools for about 14 years, including Lakeview, Dalton and Kennesaw, but has taught at Heritage High School for the past four years and said she probably loves high school the most.
“I enjoyed teaching middle school,” said Petteys. “Middle-schoolers need a lot of support and understanding from people. They tend to get lost in the shuffle so it’s rewarding to help them along. But I love high school, I think, because I can get further into the language. I get to teach Spanish 3 and 4.”
For Petteys, the key to making an impact as well as enjoying her career lies in the relationships she gets to build year after year with her students, especially when she can incorporate the Spanish language. For example, she said she often converses with the students in Spanish about their lives in general, their interests or what they’re doing over a weekend, which not only strengthens the friendship but is also a fantastic teaching and learning tool as well. Petteys was the sponsor for the graduating class last year, so she spent a great deal of time with her students doing fundraisers and planning special events with them.
“I think if you truly take an interest in who they are as a person,” said Petteys, “they’re more willing to meet your expectations as a teacher. I truly enjoy getting to know the kids and I try very hard to make sure they know I care about what’s going on in their lives outside the classroom.”
As far as receiving Heritage High’s “Teacher of the Year,” Petteys said she was a little overwhelmed when she got the news, but she was very grateful. Petteys was also nominated by a student and awarded the “Golden Apple Award” earlier in the year.
“I’ve had a great year,” she said. “I absolutely love what I do, so it’s easy to work hard and I put in a lot of effort. We all do, here at Heritage. I really don’t see any reason why I deserve it more than anyone else in this building, but to get recognition from your peers for something you love to do is very affirming. It totally validates how you feel about the choices you’ve made.”
When asked about her future, Petteys was ready again with a quick answer and a big smile,
“If I could retire in this very classroom and this very building, I would be perfectly happy,” said Petteys. “I’m in it for the long haul as long as they’ll have me. They’re stuck with me.”
Outside of her career, Petteys said she loves reading, taking pictures and going to cycling classes at the YMCA. But for the most part, she’s happy just spending time with her lifelong friend and husband Jason and their two chil-dren, Clint (10) and Julia (5). They enjoy finding things the whole family can do to spend time together, like riding bikes together down at the Riverpark in Chattanooga.