Peyton Giessuebel ’18 ’21MEd steps into her third-grade classroom each morning with one thing on her mind: setting her students up for success. Her students, on the other hand, are thinking about going back to sleep.

“I give them a minute to just get everything situated,” says the Orange County Public School teacher, “and we normally do a bunch of reading in the morning.”

Among their books of choice: If You Only Knew What Failure Could Do — the elementary school educator and two-time UCF graduate’s newly-released children’s book that’s inspired by her failures as a student to empower readers to overcome their own.

Failure is not an option. Why not? Who says so? Giessuebel believes failure is inevitable and wants children to have a healthy relationship with it. Only then will they learn the strength they achieve from failure is something they can only get from failed experiences.

Here Giessuebel shares more about her career in education, journey to becoming an author and the important message within her first book.

I was destined to teach.

I’ve always had a passion for working with children. I actually got inspired to teach by my first-grade teacher who’s a character in my book, Mrs. Daniels. UCF is really known for its School of Teacher Education, so there was no doubt when I graduated high school that I would go there because I knew the quality of education and the quality of professors that I would have would be unmatched to any other university.

The road to becoming an educator was rocky.

I was always never good at taking tests my whole life. I almost gave up teaching because I couldn’t pass the state exams. My brother has been a heavy supporter of me wanting to go into education. I remember when I didn’t pass some of the certification exams, he paid for my retakes without me even knowing. He was a huge part in how this failure has come to not be a failure anymore, but instead my testimony, my story. Without people like him, I don’t think I would be where I’m at today.

I feel the buildup of testing pressure in my own classroom.

It’s frustrating. In education today we see there’s so much pressure on these tests. I see students struggling with testing anxiety. They could be a straight-A student but not pass a test and then are told they can’t move on to the next grade. I’m trying to change that narrative. I’m open to talking about failure with my students. I tell them that we all are going to fail. I think it’s a balance between communication, encouragement and transparency as an educator to a student. It’s all about relationships and them knowing that I don’t value a test over them.

When I could write a book about anything, I chose to write about my failures.

I’ve always been super determined in life to not just be a teacher, but be a teacher with a purpose. I actually saw another educator write a book with children’s illustrator Diana McDermott. I was looking at the book and thought, “Why can’t I do this? I have a story to share.”

My 32-page children’s book is inspired by real life events that I’ve gone through. A boy named Thomas, who’s named after my brother, is called upon to read out loud in class. He has all this confidence as he’s reading, but then comes across a word that he doesn’t know. The fear of failure takes over him until his teacher, Mrs. Daniels, tells him that everybody fails and shares her own struggles with learning and needing a tutor. Through his teacher, Thomas gets to see failure from a different lens and realizes that it isn’t a failure, it’s just a learning step to get you to where you need to be.

It was pretty clear on my heart what I wanted to write about. Diana loved the story and believed in my vision, and that’s how the book was born. At first when I told my students that I was an author, they were like, “Oh, are you famous now?” No, I’m not famous, but look, an actual book came out of my failure. It’s proof that good things do come from hard times.

What has failure taught me? To believe in myself.

I was always never good at taking tests. But when it really mattered to get my degree at UCF, my failed experiences taught me that I can do it. I had to believe in myself because I’m the one taking the test. If everything was easy and we never got anything wrong, we’d never grow. So I think my failed experiences have built perseverance, resilience, strength and this unshakable belief in myself that I can do hard things. I’m proud of the failures, and now I’m not ashamed to talk about them. I hope that I can share this message with others: that we should be talking about our failures because we have something to learn from them.