HCS Changemaker: Mrs. Susan McCluskey
Congratulations to Mrs. Susan McCluskey, a fourth-grade teacher at Goldsmith Schiffman Elementary School, who has been selected as an HCS Changemaker!Through high school, Mrs. McCluskey says that being an educator was “the furthest thing from my mind.” That all changed during her senior year when she had the opportunity to be paired with a kindergarten teacher, Ms. Borden, as an instructional aide. It didn’t take long after she began working with the children in that class that Mrs. McCluskey realized she had found her calling. She went to college and began working on an elementary education degree, then shortly after graduation got her first teaching job at Huntsville City Schools. That was in 1996, and 25 years later she is still here enriching the lives of her students.
“She is just one of the most amazing teachers,” says Goldsmith Schiffman Principal Jennifer Douthit, “every year her children soar academically, but one of the main things that makes her such a great teacher is that she teaches with her whole heart.” Mrs. McCluskey’s classroom is built around being a family where everyone is loved, encouraged, and where it is okay to make mistakes. Mrs. McCluskey says they aren’t just students to her, “they are my kids.”
While things have changed a bit this year, students in Mrs. McCluskey’s room are usually engaged in lots of hands-on activities, building things, stretched out on the carpet while reading, or working together in groups. She uses a lot of STEM-based activities to encourage higher-order thinking skills.
When she isn’t teaching, Mrs. McCluskey’s two boys keep her very, very busy. One is a sophomore at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, while the other is a junior at Huntsville High School and on the baseball team. Both she and her husband love to travel, and one of their favorite experiences was a mission trip to Guatemala. Even then, Mrs. McCluskey was continuing her craft by working with children on English language skills as well as arts and crafts activities alongside their mission work of providing medical supplies and interventions. As she puts it, “teaching never stops… it really is a calling.”
When asked about the long-term hopes she has for her students, Mrs. McCluskey recalls a former student she spoke with recently that is now in college working to become an educator themselves. That student wrote a paper for a class where she explained that Mrs. McCluskey worked with her as a struggling reader and helped her fall in love with reading. As Mrs. McCluskey puts it, “It’s not just that I want them to remember the skills or lessons I taught. I want them to remember that I love them, I care about them as more than just a student, and I want them to know that reading and learning should be a passion.”
That former student’s testimony is but one piece of evidence among many that Mrs. McCluskey has been changing lives for the past 25 years and continues to do so each day.