2016-2017 Teacher of the Year Nominee: Betty Cole of Westridge School!

by Jessica on May 12, 2017

Jossalyn Emslie nominated Betty Cole of Westridge School

Ms. Betty Cole has taught generations of students at Westridge School over a career that spans 35 years at the same location, so that she has taught the children of former students.

Ms. Cole has taught students from grade 7 through 12, though she has been primarily an upper high school teacher. Her primary courses have been AP European History, AP Art History, and Ethics; but over the years she has also taught U.S. History and AP U.S. History, Cultural Studies, Revolutions & Dictatorships, and China & Japan. Ms. Cole has developed and then taught courses in Public Policy & Participation, Global Issues, Third World Issues, and Comparative Religions.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. Cole developed the school’s Community Service Curriculum, following her commitment to fostering a connection between the school and the community year round, so that it became normative for students at all ages and grade levels to have long-term service interactions with their community. Year after year, she organized the Pasadena-area CROP Hunger Walk, Ox-fam Hunger Banquet, Earth Festival and Earthworks Projects for all grade levels, Alternative Holiday Marketplace, and the EPIC environmental club. She helped to develop the curriculum for the American Friends Service Committee’s (AFS) Peace Studies Program.

Ms. Cole also turned her passion for nonviolent conflict resolution, peace education, and global issues toward the school faculty, and led the Westridge Federation of Teachers as President through decades of campus changes.  She is a published author and conference speaker on topics related to peace studies and inter-religious dialogue.

Betty Cole has molded and influenced, and is beloved by, generations of students at Westridge. The keynote speech from the Westridge Ranney Award Winner for Distinguished Alumna of the Year (a member of the class of 1983) specifically mentioned Ms. Cole in the following way:

“I remember the day, in Betty Cole’s class, when we were challenged to imagine ourselves having a very different formative experience by playing a game in which education and opportunities were assigned in a game of random chance. My friends were disturbed, even angry at the unfairness of having their imaginary futures limited by happenstance without the chance to overcome by hard work and merit. It was Betty Cole who taught me so much.”

Personally, I remember studying with Ms. Cole in 2 challenging Honors classes as a high school senior, where we had tough topics and tough discussions; and she taught my daughters, 29 and 33, years later to challenge themselves in the same way to tackle tough concepts in several courses. I loved her passion, her thorough knowledge base, and her unwillingness to make issues “nice” or “easy” when they were hard, teaching her students to have confidence that they could tackle “hard” while also teaching and modeling intellectual fairness and compassion.