Senior Lecturer of Education
We sadly commemorate the death of our friend and colleague, Rita Whitmore Peterson, Director of the UCI Office of Teacher Education (OTE) from 1981 to 1989, prior to its current status as a School of Education.
Dr. Peterson was a leading science educator and scientific illustrator, who specialized in botany, particularly native California trees and ferns. Before becoming Director of the Office of Teacher Education, Dr. Peterson was an Associate Professor of Science Education at California State University, Hayward and later served as the Director of Research in Science Education at the National Science Foundation. A proponent of linking research to practice, she co-authored an important publication on “The Influence of Neuroscience upon Educational Practice” with noted psychologist, Professor Jeanne Chall and also presented a study of preservice programs on preparation to teach science in American elementary and secondary schools to the National Academy of Science.
Dr. Peterson took over the Directorship of the Office of Teacher Education after the retirement of founding Director, Dr. Kenneth Bailey. She built interdisciplinary relationships with the Departments of Chemistry and Mathematics by writing and securing the first of many National Science Foundation grants to provide advanced training to teachers. She also established Project Radius, a campus outreach effort to link the campus with local school districts to collaborate on issues related to improving K-12 education.
As a result of Project Radius and the increased demand from local school administrators and teachers for UCI to offer advanced degrees in education, Dr. Peterson obtained a planning grant to explore developing a joint Ed.D. degree in Administration in collaboration with UCLA. That degree program was established in 1994 and was offered until 2010. She also instituted plans for offering MAT degrees to teachers in addition to their Teaching Credential.
After serving as Director for eight years, Dr. Peterson stepped down from this role but she remained an active member of the faculty until her retirement in 2002, teaching elementary science methods and undergraduate courses on neuroscience as well as on mentoring and service learning.
Dr. Peterson passed away in 2018 after a battle with cancer. We remember her fondly as a warm and caring leader who created a spirit of community among her colleagues, graciously hosting wine and chocolate parties, which we all looked forward to. She was very proud of the license plates on her car – UCI OTE. She raised Maine Coon cats in her spare time and illustrated children’s books. She is survived by her daughter, Beth, and several grandchildren. She will be missed.
Carol Booth Olson, Professor, & Mary Roosevelt, Former UCI Academic Coordinator of the Multiple Subject Teaching Credential Program
Dr. Rita Peterson and Ms. Mary Roosevelt