“If you say you can’t, you have to follow up with that three-letter word: yet,” speech-language pathology assistant Magdalene (Maggie) Peacock-Butler regularly tells her students as she helps them better express themselves, become more confident and discover their innate talents. Her passion for supporting students, assisting her fellow Potter Valley Education Support Professionals Association (PVESPA) members and serving her community has earned Peacock-Butler the honor of being named 2021 Paula J. Monroe CTA Education Support Professional of the Year.
“I like to stay in the background, so to be acknowledged for my work is super humbling,” Peacock-Butler says.
“To give my students the power to use their words is amazing! They are so bright and have so much to share.”
Working at Potter Valley Community Unified School District for 19 years, Peacock-Butler was a full-inclusion aide before deciding five years ago to earn her speech-language pathology assistant degree. Her compassionate approach and ability to make connections with students and their families has garnered the respect of the school community. PVESPA President Duval “Sam” Phillips says Potter Valley parents and teachers speak of their children’s success in speech and can see the impact of her efforts.
“To give them the power to use their words is amazing! My students are so bright and have so much to share,” Peacock-Butler says, adding that working in speech-language pathology is where she belongs. “It’s just so rewarding. I would even work for free, but don’t tell the district!”
Providing speech and language support during distance learning was exceptionally challenging, she says, and she is happy to have recently returned to in-person instruction in two cohorts. She and her students wear special masks that keep their lips visible during their sessions, so students can better learn the tools they need.
“It’s a wonderful experience having them back on campus,” she says. “We need that one-on-one contact.”
Peacock-Butler has served as PVESPA secretary-treasurer since 2008. In this role, she encounters every new member, showing them what it means to be a part of the union family.
“It’s important to be able to advocate for people and to make sure they know their rights. Our union is so valuable and has so much to offer,” she says. With about 200 students districtwide, the rural community is tightly knit, and Peacock-Butler has seen some of her former students come back to her classroom with their own children. She has an open-door policy; one of her personal mottos is “Once my student, always my student.” Peacock-Butler routinely goes above and beyond for her students, even long after their time with her — she’s helped students with college applications, financial aid paperwork and projects needed for graduation.
While she’s often seen as the face of PVESPA, organizing union booths at community events throughout the year, Peacock-Butler says all her fellow ESPs are similarly focused on supporting Potter Valley students. “Every one of our team deserves to be the ESP of the Year.”
Peacock-Butler’s dedication to her students and union family wouldn’t be possible without the support of her husband of 27 years and their two children. She says it’s because of them that she’s able to help her students succeed and grow, just like every educator in the CTA family.
“Thank you for all you do to prepare the leaders of tomorrow,” she says. “Together, we make a difference. With unity brings strength.”
Watch Peacock-Butler being honored at CTA State Council in April at youtube.com/CaliforniaTeachers.