RACINE COUNTY — An outdoor classroom has been established in honor of Jill Peterson, a former educator at Raymond School, 2659 76th St., in Franksville.
In addition, a Gingko tree has been planted near the structure in honor of Mary Ozburn, an educator who is retiring this year, after a decade with Raymond School.
The Raymond School Foundation and the Raymond School PTO have contributed financially to make the experiential education structure come to life.
“The idea generated by a group of staff members, as to a way the foundation could show their support to the school and the students of the community,” said Principal Jeff Peterson.
“The project and fundraising had started and then Jill Peterson, who happens to be my sister, was a teacher here, passed away and they decided to dedicate the project to her.”
Family and community connections
Peterson had been teaching at the school beginning in 2002, up until her death in 2021. She unexpectedly died of cancer, three weeks after receiving a diagnosis.
Coincidentally, she also attended Raymond School as a child, along with her siblings, Linda, and the current principal of Raymond School, Jeff.
The family ties don’t stop there, their father also served on the school board as they were attending at Raymond.
“She certainly was committed not only to the school but her community,” said Jeff.
Jill Peterson was well known in the community, not just by the students in her classes. She was very involved with her church, North Cape Lutheran Church. In addition, she was a member of the Racine County Fair Board and so many other organizations and events.
As an educator, one of her favorite phrases was “Everything connects,” and at the structure, that piece of Jill will continue to impact others.
“What students most remember her for is that she was connected to everything,” said Principal Peterson. “She was always a person not only teaching them about things in school, but teaching them about life as well.”
The outdoor classroom dedication ceremony
On May 12, the school hosted a ceremony to celebrate the completed structure and the opening of the space as a place for not only the school, but the community to use as well.
“The people who knew Jill and knew that space is going to be dedicated to her knew that she’d be very proud. She would also be very humbled,” explained her brother. “She lived her life as an educator.”
Jill’s infamous catchphrase was proudly presented on a special sign, created by a colleague, to be hung on the structure.
“It’s a very flexible space that can be used for academic learning, that can be used for learning in the arts, or music or writing and reading space as well,” said the principal.
Two of Jill’s former students were among many other current students who joined together for a day full of conversations and praise about Jill’s impact.
In addition, this was a celebration to honor the work of Mary Ozburn, a soon-to-be retiree. A tree was planted near the outdoor classroom to honor the educator’s years of service dedicated to Raymond School.
Her current kindergarteners each grabbed a ribbon that was connected to the tree as it was planted. Family and friends were also in attendance to celebrate the milestone, too. Poems were read, in addition to congratulatory notes that were given.
Like the tree, Raymond School sees this outdoor classroom and its surroundings as a place for growth.
“The foundation is just thankful for the contributions and things from the community that made this happen… they continue to want to grow this space and just continue to expand it. Providing students kind of an innovative, creative, experiential place outside the walls of their school to learn and grow as well,” concluded the principal.
Peterson also noted that the outdoor structure is “also a community space so that the community can be connected to it as well.”
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