MEdT Alumna and PhD in Educational Foundations Student

“In both Uzbekistan and Tonga, teachers knew their students’ siblings, parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles. This is where I really learned that a nurturing learning environment is priority number one.”


Maryland (moved to Massachusetts in third grade)


Educational Foundations

Related Degrees

  • MEd, Teaching (MEdT) - Non-Licensure
  • PhD, Education: Global & International Education

COEAA Spotlight on Lory Peroff

Growing Up

I have two sisters and one brother who are my best friends. We spent a lot of time in nature as kids and still enjoy doing that together with our families as adults. Our parents were masters of orchestrating memorable experiences. From vacationing in a treehouse to hiking through lava fields, I can recall dazzling moments from over 40 years ago like they were yesterday. I recently read a book called “The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath. It reminded me of the special moments my parents crafted for me and my siblings. In this way, I think my upbringing influenced the way I teach.

I understand the importance of creating positive memorable moments in the classroom. Teachers have an incredible opportunity to make lessons that students will remember for a lifetime. This is a big responsibility and a true gift. It is also really fun. I love thinking up ways to make learning more memorable and meaningful. For example, one of my favorite units is the Cardboard Challenge. It is a fun and memorable way for students to engage in the design thinking process. Our culminating event is turning the classroom into a cardboard arcade where parents are invited to play student games for real money. Itʻs a fun way to integrate math, science, and language arts. Students also enjoy choosing a charity to donate our earnings. At the end of year reflections, this activity consistently is one of the top activities my students recall.

College Years

• University of Colorado at Boulder, Bachelors Psychology, 2000
• University of Hawai`i at Manoa, Masterʻs of Education in Teaching, 2005
• University of Hawai`i at Manoa PhD student, Global and International Education (in progress)

Road to Becoming an Educator

After completing my undergraduate studies, I hit the road for over four years serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan and Tonga. My time as a Peace Corp volunteer taught me many lessons that influenced my world view and my educational philosophy. I learned how to be resourceful. I learned very quickly that you don’t need state-of-the-art technology or nifty gadgets to create a great lesson. I learned brilliant teachers in both places make magical learning experiences with no more than cracked chalk boards and one shared book. I also learned the value of knowing your learners. In both Uzbekistan and Tonga, teachers knew their students’ siblings, parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles. This is where I really learned that a nurturing learning environment is priority number one.

History as an Educator

I have been teaching in some capacity for most of my adult life. In college, I volunteered as a tutor in a domestic violence shelter. After college, I served as a teacher and a teacher trainer in the Peace Corps. Upon returning to the United States, I worked as a teacher at Franciscan Childrenʻs Hospital in a psychiatric unit with young children. During this time, I also worked as an ESL teacher for adult learners. All of these experiences motivated me to want to learn more about the art of teaching. So, I decided to further my studies and hone my skills as an educator at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. I learned so much from my professors and mentor teachers at the College of Education that I still use in my practice today. I started my teaching career in Hawaiʻi at Hale Kula Elementary School under the visionary leadership of Principal Jan Iwase. Since then, I have been teaching at Waikīkī Elementary school for the past 10 years. I have also taught in an international school in Taiwan as well as a community school in Ghana. I am so grateful I decided to be an educator. Teaching is a wildly fantastic profession.

Philosophy for Children

Philosophy for Children is really at the center of my work as an educator. I always tell my students that, if by the end of the year, they can sit in a circle of diverse minded individuals and listen with empathy, speak thoughtfully, think deeply, and maintain a safe community, then I have done my job. I really think that the world needs individuals who will deeply listen and learn from each other.

Writing (Peroff has been published globally via EdWeek and Medium)

Even after nearly 20 years in the classroom, the school day flashes by in a blink of an eye. Teachers make so many small and big decisions every minute of every day. Writing helps me slow down and reflect on my teaching practice. It is therapeutic really. Writing has helped me better understand myself as an educator as well as pushed me to stay constantly vigilant about my practice.

My advice for other educators who want to be published is just write, write, write as much as possible. No piece of writing is too big or too small. Also, be brave. Share your work often. Submit widely and donʻt be discouraged. I have been rejected far more than I have been published. But thatʻs OK, the process of writing is a reward in itself.

Three Fun Facts

1. I lived for two and a half years without electricity.
2. I have a lot of pets, including a guard duck, a red footed tortoise, and a stubborn goat.
3. My great grandmother, grandmother, and I all got married on Halloween. My wedding was a costume party.

Final Thoughts

In regards to the PhD, I took classes as an unclassified student for a year and was officially admitted into the Educational Foundations PhD program. I am completing my coursework now. Full-time job, two kids, and night classes… my plate is pretty full, but I wouldnʻt have it any other way.




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