Staton Elementary School teacher Elizabeth Pesco refuses to praise herself in any way, but others have no problem doing so.
They use words such as “devoted,” “hardest-working” and “inspiring.”
Pesco, a Centennial Hills resident, received a LifeChanger of the Year Award from National Life Group at a surprise ceremony March 1 at her school, 1700 Sageberry Drive. Pesco and her school each received $1,500. Pesco was one of 10 winners selected from more than 400 nominations from 33 states.
The award recognizes kindergarten through 12th-grade educators who “make a difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership,” according to National Life Group.
Pesco said she was “honored” and “humbled” to receive the award but added “it’s not really (her) driving motivation.”
Pesco’s students joked with her that she would probably spend the prize money to improve her classroom. She said she had not even thought about what she would spend it on but said her students are probably right.
Pesco grew up in Las Vegas and graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno. She started teaching in the Clark County School District in 2000 at Lake Elementary School, 2904 Meteoro St., where she taught first- and second-grade bilingual students.
Pesco was nominated for the award by Tarr Elementary School special education teacher Vanessa Jewell, whose son was in Pesco’s class two years ago.
“We just moved back to Las Vegas, and he was a struggling learner,” Jewell said of her son, Carter, a sixth-grader at Rogich Middle School. “I was amazed at the effort she put in to help him. She stayed after school and tutored him even when he moved on to fifth grade.
“I’m a teacher as well; I know how demanding it is. She had such high expectations for him.”
Jewell said her son has received A’s and B’s ever since and that Pesco offered to continue tutoring him even after he moved to middle school.
“She goes so far above and beyond what she has to do as a teacher to make sure they not only succeed but excel,” Jewell said. “... She’s a huge factor as to why he’s doing so well today. She just pushed him and pushed him and pushed him.”
Pesco knows what it is like to be a struggling student and what a difference one teacher can make.
“School for me growing up was such a mystery,” she said. “Looking back, I might have said, ‘It’s so hard I don’t get it.’ I see that in a lot of these kids. I’m going to do whatever it takes. Sometimes it takes certain kids longer to learn things like I did. I look at every kid like myself.”
That changed for Pesco while she was a freshman at Bishop Gorman High School and she received her first in A in what was the most difficult subject for her. For the first time she felt smart, she said, thanks to her Algebra I teacher, Mr. O’Grady.
“All the struggles and everything kind of came to a head,” she said. “I had the most amazing math teacher. I’ll never forget being able to walk into class and I felt like the smartest person in class. Everything just kind of clicked. He was just really such an inspiration.”
Pesco regularly tutors students before and after school and even spends her prep period teaching writing lessons in other teachers’ classrooms.
Lori Kelly, a second-grade teacher at Staton, said Pesco gives any extra time she has to help students, even going to their homes after school if necessary.
“I’ve taught for 27 years, and I’ve never seen someone so dedicated and have as much passion as she does,” Kelly said. “She’s always on a mission to help kids. ... I don’t know when she sleeps, actually.”
Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5524.