By Stephen Laming
New this year as a full-time faculty member, Mike Peters comes to Collegiate with multiple responsibilities: during the day he teaches fifth and sixth grade math, and he is a seventh grade boys advisor. After school, Peters is the new head coach of the Collegiate swim program.
Peters grew up just north of New York City and describes himself as a “city boy.” Richmond is the smallest city he has ever lived in, or ever wants to. As a child, Peters attended a large 3,500 person public high school, at which he excelled in math and science and finished in the top five percent of his class. Swimming was a significant part of his childhood, and in high school he would drive 15 minutes into The Bronx everyday for team practice.
Peters attended Brown University to pursue an engineering degree and to continue his swimming career. He chose Brown because it offered a “tight knit community” – one that Peters felt he did not get with high school. He graduated from Brown with a Bachelors in Engineering, but he was not sure if it was a field he wanted to pursue. After college, Peters moved to Richmond and started coaching for Southampton Recreation Association’s summer swim team. To this day, Peters still coaches for Southampton and has instructed countless Collegiate students there. Zack Hunnicutt (‘19) has been swimming for Peters at Southampton for almost ten years. Hunnicutt described Peters as someone who would, “Challenge me individually at practice, but always knew how to keep it fun.”
During his first year coaching for Southampton, Peters met Mike Stott, the head swim coach for Collegiate at the time. Stott was impressed when watching Peters and offered him a job as an assistant coach for the Collegiate swim team for the 2002-03 season. After his first year coaching in Richmond, Peters knew it was a career he wanted to pursue and returned to New York for a Master’s of Sports Business from New York University.
After two years of coaching swimming at Georgetown University after his Master’s, Peters once again moved back to Richmond. On his return to Richmond, Peters resumed coaching for Collegiate and began a teaching license program at the University of Richmond. Peters never knew he wanted to be a teacher; “I always thought teaching involved only doing lectures.” But once he saw a modern classroom environment, Peters was sold. After completing his teaching licensing program, Peters’ hope was to get a job at Collegiate, but none were available. Instead, he began teaching at Jackson Davis Elementary School in Henrico County, where he taught fifth grade for seven years.
This year, fourteen years after he first coached with the Collegiate Swim Team, Peters is excited to be a full-time teacher at Collegiate. Peters said he is looking forwarding to finally being able to “merge my coaching and teaching life together.” He has already been impressed by the learning environment at Collegiate, and when asked about how this compares to his old job, he said, “the biggest difference between this and public school is the amount of trust we have in the kids.”
Peters is teaching math, and his goal for the year is “bridging the divide between people who love math and those who don’t.” He understands that each student is better in some subjects than others, so Peters is focusing on problem solving and working through frustration, as opposed to only lecturing math skills. He hopes that even if his students do not love his class, they will “leave with an appreciation and comfortability with math.” This year, Peters is also taking over one of the most decorated Collegiate sports teams. With the help from Collegiate Dive team, the swim and dive program has won nine state championships – six women’s and three mens – in the last ten years. When asked about his plans for the future of the team, Peters said the team will continue to operate very similarly. “So many years the team has had a very successful structure, and I don’t want to change a winning formula.” Peters is excited about the upcoming season and feels confident the team can win another state title this year.