Andrews seeks to instill lifelong love of learning
Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 9, 2006
Susan Andrews, a woman who loves to travel, sees this world as a “glorious, marvelous place.”
As it turns out, some of those marvelous places aren't very far away.
Everyday, as she journeys south from her home in Greenville to the tiny town of McKenzie, Andrews says she feels blessed by the abundance of “precious, bright” young people and co-workers she finds at the south Butler County community's K-12 school.
Chosen as the McKenzie School Teacher of the Year, Andrews is a 15-year veteran of the classroom, with 14 of those years spent at McKenzie.
“It's a small school, so I teach whatever is needed that particular year. This year, I have seventh grade literature and composition, eighth through tenth grade English and Art Appreciation classes,” Andrews explained.
Among her proudest moments as a teacher, she says, are the successes of her students (“I love it when my special education students pass the graduate exam”).
Tangible proof of the bond that grows between a caring teacher and responsive students also brings her great satisfaction.
“When my students leave me a complimentary note on the board, or write a note of appreciation; the letter of recommendation my former student Erica Knight wrote – all these things mean so much to me,” Andrews explained.
“When a student returns to tell me, it was fun in your room, I know I have made the ultimate connection.”
This award-winning teacher got off to a late start with her educational career. In fact, “most people assumed someone with my background and intellect should have chosen to study the law,” Andrews, who comes from a family with a long legal history, said.
Her interests in the arts (she is also a dance teacher) made some wonder why she didn't pursue a degree in theater or art history.
Even Andrews admits once upon a time she would have never dreamed of becoming a teacher.
“However, at the age of 43, I entered AUM with the intention of finishing an undergraduate degree I had begun 25 years earlier (at the University of Alabama),” Andrews said. She went on to earn a M.Ed in Language Arts at AUM.
In the beginning, she says she thought of teaching as a route to help her own children, both of whom were “ambivalent about the learning process.”
Andrews once found herself in tears as she told one of her college teachers, “I just want to be the kind of classroom teacher who instills a love of learning.”
It is still her aim each day.
“I have come to realize teaching is a calling; we are called by those who taught us, called to re-enter the halls of learning and pass on the knowledge given to us,” Andrews said.
Every year on the first day of school, her students receive a handout with a picture of Garfield on the front, stating “You gotta play by the rules.”
“I have my Four ‘C's of Excellent Conduct: Commitment, Communication, Courtesy and Compliment. All of us, including myself, the students, their parents and the principal, sign a contract with those rules spelled out,” Andrews said.
The Four Cs require effort from both student and teacher, she said.
“ ‘Commitment' means I identify students' strengths and weaknesses in not only the academic but the social arenas as well. I attend beauty pageants and sports events to show I am available.”
“Communication” is a skill she teaches through writing, enabling her students to express their thoughts.
“ ‘Courtesy' means recognizing cultural and emotional differences and celebrating them. “Compliment” honors the best in each of us. No one is allowed to denigrate another…the Four Cs are the centerpiece of my personal teaching style,” Andrews said.
She not only passes her knowledge, wisdom and experience to her students, she also helps mentor fledgling teachers.
One of those Andrews mentored, Angie McCaster, went on to become Georgiana's Teacher of the Year for 2006.
Andrews also tries to give back to her community in other ways.
An active member in many facets of Saint Thomas Episcopal Church, she has been involved with the Butler County Democratic Committee, the Girl Scouts of America, and the American Heart Association.
“Every year my dance school's recital raises money for St. Jude Children's Hospital. The children seem to feel joy dancing for those who are too sick to do so themselves,” Andrews said.
Home is where Susan Andrew's heart is.
“Butler County is my home, the home of my children, my grandchildren and the home of so many I love…McKenzie School is a wonderful school and I have met some of the brightest people I know right here. I'm proud of what we accomplish.”