Not many educators have been involved with Sister Schools as long as Peggy Lotz. In fact, she has worked with Sister Schools for at least half of the 40+ years she has been teaching, at both Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary and Peter Kirk Elementary.
When school is not in session, Peggy loves reading, spending time with family and friends, traveling, dancing (her form of exercise), going to movies, and photography. She has not been to Uganda with Sister Schools yet, but she hopes to go one day when she retires.
Keep reading to learn more about Peggy and why she is a shining example of the impact Sister Schools can have here in the Puget Sound area.
To start, tell us about your school.
Peter Kirk Elementary is in the heart of Kirkland, Washington. This year, we have a brand-new school and it is beautiful. It was built last year while we were still working in the old building. We have over 600 students from K-5. Our community and student council members love to participate in service projects and work to make a difference in the lives of others.
Last year, we did a supply drive for the Humane Society and, of course, we have participated in Sister Schools for over 20 years. During that time, we have been involved in supply drives, collected money for backpacks, sponsored Ugandan students when they visited and performed in the community, and had an ice cream social for them as well.
We have also collected food for Hopelink, teddy bear drives for Seattle Children’s Hospital, coin drives to find the cure for cancer and for communities that have suffered from a natural disaster. Our students and staff are smart, hardworking, caring, and we strive to do our best in everything we do. Our mascot is the eagle and students from Peter Kirk are always soaring to success.
How did you get involved with Sister Schools?
I was the counselor at Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary and Peter Kirk, and I was looking for service projects for our student council programs. Our school librarian at the time, Kathy Pazaski, heard about Sister Schools through her church. She told me about it, and I contacted Terry McGill to see if we could get involved at my two schools. After meeting with Terry, I was “all in.” I loved his program and after meeting him, knew that it was just the right fit for what I was trying to create at my schools. That was back in 1999. Since then, I have continued working with Terry and Sister Schools at Blackwell and Kirk. Now I am teaching at Kirk, but Blackwell is still having Sister Schools return on a regular basis.
I was lucky to participate in the exchange program when Ugandan students visited for two of the three years. I helped find homes for the students when they were visiting on the Eastside. I also set up two musical performances, one at the Lake Washington High School auditorium. At that time, we were all so amazed by these students, so we set up a plan to sponsor them until they completed their education in Uganda. My student was Eric and I have kept in touch with him after helping to sponsor his education.
As an educator, what part of our mission and program connects with you most?
Being involved with Sister Schools has been one of the major highlights of my career! It teaches our students to be more appreciative of what they have by learning how difficult lives can be for others in our world. More importantly, they learn that they can make a difference by sharing what they have with others. This program also teaches our students that their acts of kindness can spread across the world, and they can make a difference right in their own community. I had so many students find ways to raise money or give back after being involved in Sister Schools.
Meeting and working with the Ugandan students that visited was life changing for me. Most of us have been so lucky to be born in the United States, into the families we have, and the privileges that comes with that. I wasn’t sure what to expect when meeting the Ugandan students. Instead of burdened, disillusioned students due to their circumstances, I met these bright, intelligent students, so full of life. They were appreciative of everything and kind to each other, always looking out for one another. I immediately wanted to help them have the educational advantages they deserved.
What kind of impact has Sister Schools had on your students?
Most students at Peter Kirk are very fortunate in every way. They live in nice homes, have access to a good education, are surrounded by families and friends, and much more. They haven’t had an opportunity to understand what life is like across the world, especially in countries struggling economically. The Sister Schools program is for most, the first opportunity to understand how life is radically different in other countries. They learn about students their own age and how their daily lives are impacted by poverty. For my students to learn how to spread kindness, they need to learn empathy for others and appreciate what they have already. Sister Schools provides this opportunity.
As a result, students raised money for Sister Schools on their own. One boy raised money and bought 30 pairs of shoes when he saw that the students weren’t wearing shoes in Terry’s presentation. Another student went to the local soccer association and collected as many soccer balls as possible when Terry talked about how much they loved playing soccer but didn’t have the equipment.
When the Ugandan students came to visit, we had an ice cream social at Peter Kirk for the students. I talked to the parents and students about our scholarship fund and their need for an education. We passed a hat around and collected hundreds of dollars right on the spot to help pay for Eric’s education.
We have an “Eagles in Action” program at Kirk that encourages students to volunteer in their community. In the years that we have Sister Schools presentations, the program has two to three times as many students participating in volunteerism.
Like all schools, our students go home and donate many of their books, toys, clothes, and supplies and are excited to know that another student, their age, will benefit from that donation.
If you could tell our partner schools in Uganda ONE THING, what would you say?
For the educators, I want to thank them for their dedication to all students and their futures. I want them to know that they have one of the most important jobs and their dedication is truly appreciated.