“A Child’s First Teacher Is Its Mother” – Peng Liyuan

Mother’s Day 2020 is here. Most years, this holiday brings back nostalgic, fond memories of my childhood. I’ve always been a bit of a mama’s girl. Ask my twin sister–she can confirm. My mom’s name is Bonnie (a.k.a. Bon Bon). On our daily calls, she catches me up on the weather in the Ozarks, her golf score, and the state of crappie fishing in Missouri. 

She’s also an active listener. Whether I’m struggling or celebrating, my mom is both my biggest cheerleader and most trusted confidant. She’s also the best teacher I’ve ever had. She was a career educator, starting her very first job as an art teacher in 1970.

Mom, Teacher and Coach

My twin sister and I were born in 1981. You know, that strange era that evokes memories of corded phones and faded shag carpeting. I went to a private school where my mom worked as a sixth grade teacher.

Bon Bon was never one to shy away from pushing the boundaries of what great teaching could and should be. As a science teacher, she encouraged the school to purchase textbooks that contained lessons on evolution.

She always found the most unique, out-of-the-box science projects that kept us engaged and excited for class. From egg drops to a solar car race hosted at Argonne National Laboratory, my mom was extremely creative. She worked hard to give all her students her very best.

Outside the classroom, my mom kept teaching. She was a trailblazer for women as one of the first female Athletic Directors in 1988. She coached basketball and softball, and fought for us to play against top competition. In fourth grade she taught our team to run an insane offense (box motion) against girls twice our size. We got beat a lot, by a lot. Fast forward to eighth grade, our team took 4th Place in the Lutheran State tournament.

My mom is generous and kind. If a teammate was stranded after practice or a game in the middle of a January snowstorm, she wouldn’t hesitate to drive them home, no matter how exhausted she was after a 13+ hour day. She sacrificed everything to be a helper. She didn’t complain, and she never made excuses.

After Teaching

While her official career in education ended in 2010, she still finds ways to teach in retirement. In the last several years, she had two knee replacements, both of which were really hard on her. With dedication and focus, she is back to doing the things she loves.

The nurses at the rehab center continue to let her workout because she is encouraging and positive with other patients. She pushes them, but also knows when to be compassionate.

My mom taught from 1970 to 2010. Throughout those 40 years, she impacted the lives of over 11,760 children. To this day, she runs into past students who are always eager to share their favorite memories from her classes. 

Moms, aunts, grandmothers and caretakers are truly our first teachers. They teach us to eat, walk, talk, and later in life, set us on the path toward who we become as humans. The kindness and compassion my mom has shown is a tough act to follow, but I try to be the best person I can. I push for what I believe is right, and I don’t give up. I have my mom, Bon Bon, to thank for that.


From all of us at Otus, we wish you the happiest Mother’s Day. In honor of the women at Otus who work tirelessly to ensure every K-12 student is seen for who they are, we made a donation to Girls on the Run. Girls on the Run is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.