It's Teacher Appreciation Week, and we are so thankful for all of our teachers! We're so proud to celebrate the hard work they're doing and the unique experiences and backgrounds they bring to AF. Today, we’re featuring a conversation with Susan Charles. Susan teaches first grade at AF Crown Heights Elementary and was recently named a Stage 4 Distinguished Teacher. And that’s not all. Her path to joining our Team & Family is also special—she started out as an AF parent! We sat down with her to hear about this journey that’s come full circle.
Hi Susan! Thank you so much for chatting with us today. Can you tell us a little bit about your background, and how you came to work at AF?
Wow, time has flown by! My son was a founding first grader at AF Crown Heights Elementary. A friend who also had a son at the school mentioned to Mr. Kerr, the principal at the time, that I had my substitute teaching license, and he started calling me to come in when a teacher was out. As a parent, I loved everything the school had to offer and wanted to a part of it. Mr. Kerr later asked me to be an assistant to the dean, while teaching a Reading Mastery group. I gladly accepted! From there, I transitioned into a school support role and later expressed an interest in teaching and here I am today.
And we’re glad to have you! When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
Oh my gosh, it has always been my dream to become a teacher ever since I was a little girl. I grew up in Trinidad and had truly amazing teachers and wanted to be just like them.
What gets you up in the morning?
I am a Christian and so every day God gets me up, I think it’s a blessing. Also, knowing that I get to live out my dream of teaching gives me an extra boost. Not everyone has the opportunity to do that, and so I’m very grateful to work at a great school with a great team.
Do you have a favorite classroom tradition or memory?
One of my favorite traditions is to have music playing every morning as my students enter the classroom. The music represents different genres and cultures and helps set the mood and atmosphere for the day.
Susan, your son was a founding first grader, and now he’s almost headed off to college! That makes us feel old. What growth have you seen in him, and in AF, over the years? What schools are at the top of his list?
Yes, it makes me feel old, too! My son Frankie is in 11th grade getting ready to take the SAT. Because of the years he spent here at AF, he’s developed tremendous reading skills. He’s an avid reader! I’ve seen a lot of growth here at AF, too, but the thing that stands out to me the most is how we do our content plans across the board. We are more strategic and purposeful with our planning and how we execute those plans. As for college, we don’t know yet. Frankie loves Davidson, but we’ll see. All we know is that we both, Frankie and I, want him to go away for college. I never got the opportunity, so I want Frankie to get that experience (while remembering everything I taught him, of course).
So this is you and Frankie in this photo? What’s the occasion?
It was the day I ran the Reebok Spartan Race! It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Frankie was waiting for me at the finish line, so every time I thought about dropping out, the image of him seeing me finish kept me going. I needed to show him that no matter how challenging and difficult it is, we always complete the things we start. This is something I share with my students, too, so I knew that I had to finish for them as well.
That’s so sweet! Congratulations. Is there anything you wish you’d known when you started teaching?
Yes! We serve a lot of students with different needs, and I wish that the strategies I’ve learned over the last four years, I’d known then. I would’ve been able to provide more support for students who were struggling. But I’m learning and growing, and so I’m very focused on the future and how I can have a greater impact in our organization and with families and students.
Speaking of the future, what are you most looking forward to (in either your career or personal life)?
I am looking forward to becoming the best educator I could possibly be and getting to see what my students have accomplished a few years from now. I’m also excited to see Frankie go off to college.
Amazing! Is there anything else you want to share with readers?
It’s been a wonderful and humbling experience working at AF these past years, and I’m looking forward to a lot more years to come.
Thanks, Susan! So are we.