Micah and Nathan Pettigrew do everything together and they are busy people. They are both teachers with Ector County Independent School District, they run the House of the Sycamore Tree, they give of their time together and they recently earned their master’s degrees in educational leadership from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin.
Micah is in her 22nd year with ECISD and Nathan has 19 years. All of Micah’s experience is in special education and Nathan works at the Alternative Education Center.
She started as an aide at Permian High School, which is where she graduated. Micah said her mother is a special education teacher and wanted her to become an educator, as well.
“I kept telling her I didn’t want to be a teacher. But I eventually I started substitute teaching. While I was substitute teaching, I subbed in a special ed classroom. I had the best day. I enjoyed it so much. I started telling the sub office, ‘If ya’ll have special ed openings, give them to me,’” Micah said.
“Most people didn’t want special ed classes, so from then on, I got special ed only … and I fell in love. I knew that that was going to be my career and it was what I was supposed to do,” she added.
Closer to earning a business degree than one in education, Micah earned a business degree from the University of Phoenix and got her alternative certification from the Region 18 Education Service Center.
They both attended Odessa College. Nathan got his associate degree.
Micah decided to go for a master’s because her husband was determined to get one.
An Odessa High School dropout, Nathan said he earned a bachelor’s degree in life science with a minor in English as a second language from UTPB.
Before working at the Alternative Center, Nathan taught horticulture and managed the ECISD greenhouses. “I came in visiting her and enjoyed the kids, so I decided I would venture this way,” Nathan said.
He added that he felt a special connection with at-risk youngsters.
“That kind of put me in a different field from special ed. I wanted to be where I could help the kids not make the same mistakes I did, but see they could still become successful despite whatever mistakes they made,” Nathan said.
“I wasn’t raised that education was that important. That’s why I dropped out of high school. I just feel blessed to find my own way,” he added.
As an educator, Nathan said, he wants to let students know there’s no stopping, despite any obstacles.
He noted that he has been blessed to have administrators who believed in him and pushed him to continue his education.
“I worked under Charles Quintela. He encouraged me to keep going and not to settle and put me in leadership roles, which from there, I just kind of chose to go to get master’s and stepping up to the principalship role, which is my next step,” Nathan added.
Quintela was the principal at the Alternative Center and now helms Ector Middle School.
Micah said Nathan started his master’s in November 2016 and she began in January 2017. He wants to be an assistant principal at the secondary level and Micah would like in special education administration.
“We do everything together and I just knew I was going to be with him every step of the way and I thought, ‘Why should I be in it with him this whole time and not participate myself?’ How dumb would that be? He took that one class and I started with him the very next class …,” Micah said.
They completed their degrees quickly. Along with teaching, the Pettigrews are involved in many volunteer activities and run House of the Sycamore Tree, a vocational training facility for special needs and at-risk young adults after they’ve finished school.
As a couple, the Pettigrews are Area I coordinators for the Texas Youth Hunting Program. They teach credit recovery in the evening and she does in-home training where she teaches critical skills to students with autism in the home.
The couple has been married since 1991 and has two daughters and four grandchildren.
“We volunteer all the time we work all the time, then we’re very dedicated during the day to the jobs we have during the day,” Micah said.
When she earned her master’s degree, Micah said she wasn’t nearly as excited as when she earned her bachelor’s.
“It was very bizarre for me because it was like almost like an ordinary day. I had a hard time recognizing the accomplishment. It was real weird. I can remember being so excited about finishing my bachelor’s,” Micah said.
Back then, the Pettigrews were raising two children on teacher’s aide salaries. For her, earning a bachelor’s degree meant more financial security.
“I was going to be able to make sure our finances were OK and he was going to be not far behind me. That made a difference in how I felt. It was about finances for me. People do things for different reasons and mine was about making sure that our family was taken care of and he was able to finish and we would be better off as a family,” Micah said.
Nathan wants to earn a doctorate from UTPB, but there isn’t a program there yet.
Micah is glad for the breather, although she enjoyed gathering knowledge.
“Getting my master’s was the best educational experience I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “Ever. I really, really, really enjoyed it. We had amazing professors. We could call them anytime; day or night, weekends; they responded; they were amazing. The learning we were doing was very focused. It was something that we were familiar with and we just needed some more knowledge about it.”