High School English, Speech, Debate, Theater
St. Louis, Missouri
Years in current position: 25
Total years as a classroom teacher: 25
One of Peppers’ original plays, “Choices,” dealing with teen issues
such as peer pressure, eating disorders, drugs, teen pregnancy, and
suicide was purchased by Southwestern Bell Telephone and made into a
nationally distributed documentary, which eventually won an Emmy Award.
Peppers considers her drama and speech classes a “dress rehearsal”
for real life experiences. Her classes create, direct, and produce
original public service announcements on literacy, child abuse,
alcoholism, and school dropouts.
She designed a “zero hour” (before school) credit class in technical
theater that stemmed from a district mini-grant and now has a two-year
Each class is allowed to select its own six-week project. Students
originate ideas such as developing workshops to include the middle
school, ecology play for elementary schools, library instructional
videos, lunch time cafeteria performances, and co-projects with other
schools. She wrote a play called “Act Your Age” and cast 25 students
with 25 senior citizens from the area.
Fifteen years ago, Peppers chaired the Teachers for Lindbergh
campaign to pass a bond issue to build a new multi-million auditorium
and has served as the auditorium manager ever since. She believes
teachers must never forget that public schools are for the public and
everyone must take ownership.
“Had she not been able to see beyond my teenage glasses, braces,
inferiority complex and emotional instability, my life would be very
different today. . .She did for me what she has done for many others who
have tumultuous teen years; she encouraged, listened, and always
— Linda Underwood, former student, now a teacher in Botswana, Africa
“Debra has served on practically every committee, volunteered for
every workshop, spoken at every school in the state, hugged every kid in
the school, and touched everyone that came in contact with her.
Teachers with children at the high school often do everything they can
to get their children in one of Debra’s classes.”
— Jack Schwab, teacher at Lindbergh High School