Meet Those Nerdy Girls – Gretchen Peterson


We’re so pleased to be introducing the Nerdy Girl who holds it all together, the heart of our scrappy little band of volunteers: Gretchen Peterson.

Before joining the Nerdy Girls, Gretchen Peterson had a long and successful career as a middle school teacher. 👩‍🏫

“Until May of 2020, I taught technology and entrepreneurial classes to grades 5-8 full time at a private school in Dallas. The kids loved these classes, and it was so much fun watching them learn and learning right along with them. In mid-March, my school went all virtual so I was teaching from home, which surprisingly worked out great. Teaching Middle School is not for everybody, but I love that age group. Watching them try to navigate those difficult years and being able to provide some guidance was a joy.”

After her retirement at the end of the 2020 school year, she planned to spend her days gardening, cooking, and reading. Little did she know that she’d be immediately called off the bench to become a key part of the magic at Dear Pandemic!

She originally volunteered to help us out with some YouTube and video needs, but she quickly took on more responsibilities and now is our treasured Chief Operational Officer. Peterson manages the throughput of posts to the website, coordinates our post calendar, produces the weekly Live Q&A, monitors the comments, records the good ones, bans the trolls 👺, herds the cats 🐾, notices when someone has dropped a ball 🤹‍♀️, and generally saves our butts every single day. We quite literally could not do this without her.

We asked her a bit about her life and her work, and here’s what she said.

❇️ What experiences led to becoming a teacher?

“I had another life before teaching. I spent 10 years in NYC (all of the 80s) working in the fashion business, mostly as an agent for models. When I felt it was time to leave and return to my Texas roots, I moved back to Denton, TX, and got my Master of Ed degree. As a lifelong learner, I knew the joy of learning new things and wanted to share that with children. After teaching many different grade levels, I fell in love with middle schoolers. . .go figure!” 🤓

❇️ Why did you volunteer to be part of the Dear Pandemic team?

“I had been following Dear Pandemic closely for months. In early June, Malia mentioned in a FB NG Live broadcast that they could use a high school student as a summer intern to help them with social media and technology. I got in touch immediately and offered to help. . .even though I was a 64-year-old retired teacher and the furthest thing possible from a high school student. This has turned into a volunteer retirement job more wonderful than anything I could have imagined. Working with this amazing group of women on a daily basis is such a blessing!” 😇

❇️ What has been the most frustrating thing about the pandemic, from your point of view?

“The lack of leadership at the federal level that, in my opinion, allowed the pandemic to be *much* worse than it needed to be. I’m also super frustrated by the inability or unwillingness of so many people to understand, value, and/or heed scientific evidence and advice.”

❇️ What are you most proud of?

“My proudest achievement is definitely touching the lives of so many kids during my 29-year teaching career. I’m also proud of the hundreds of cats 🐱and dogs 🐶I saved during my many years in rescue, fostering with various humane organizations.”

❇️ Who is your hero?

“I have trouble looking further back than the last twelve months to find my heroes: healthcare workers, public safety workers, essential workers in stores, delivery drivers, scientists, mail carriers, and so many more who have allowed all our lives to be as good as they can be during this pandemic. And then there’s Dr. Fauci who, despite frequent humiliation and disrespect, stayed in his job because of his total dedication to public health in this country.”

❇️ What you miss most from before the pandemic:

“Frequent visits with my 5-yr-old great niece and in-person happy hours with friends.🍷”

❇️ What you don’t miss at all:

“In-person grocery shopping! Who knew I would actually love being a diva and having personal shoppers do this for me? I have always been very disciplined about meal prep and picky about grocery shopping. I would plan meals for an entire week, make a list of ingredients, then shop. I never dreamed I would be ok with someone else picking out my avocados. 🥑 But guess what? I love it!”

❇️ If you had a do-over on the last 10 months, what would you do differently? ⏪

“I can honestly say nothing. I had really suffered over the decision of whether to retire this past year or teach one more year. In late January, I decided to go for it and retire at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Who knew what was just around the corner? I have to say it was probably the best timing I’ve ever had in my life.”

❇️ Superpower 🦸‍♀️:

“Networking and making connections between people; it just seems to be in my DNA. I’m also pretty good at organizing anything that needs it, from groups to closets.” {Editorial note: That’s true. You’re looking at the proof right now.}

❇️ How do you manage stress?

“I love to walk around my neighborhood. I was walking 5-6 miles a day all summer and fall, but I have to admit the colder weather has slowed me down. 🥶 But spring in Dallas is only a month or so away! I also enjoy watching tv series with my husband; we recently started Treme on HBO and are loving it.”

❇️ What you’re looking forward to this year:

“Without a doubt, (hopefully) going to Costa Rica. 🌊🐬🍹⛱️🦜🌴 My husband and I have traveled there at least once a year since 2000. We spend a few days doing some heavy-duty birding then relax at the pool/beach. This was the first summer we’ve missed in 20 years.”

❇️ Fun fact: Gretchen is a passionate animal lover, has had pets all her life, and has helped local rescues foster hundreds of animals. A few years ago, she decided to only adopt senior cats. “We currently have Fritz, a 14-year-old whose owner’s son took him to a vet to be euthanized when his mother had to go to a long-term care facility. Luckily for us, the vet boarded him and found him a home. . us! Our other cat, Callie, aged 10, was adopted from Animal Control after she was dropped off there because she “wasn’t good with kids.” We love them both dearly!”
Thank you so much Gretchen. Love, Those Nerdy Girls and all our readers. And from Fritz and Callie. You’ve saved us all.

Link to original FB post