Teacher of the Week: Joan Sutherland

Teacher of the Week: Joan Sutherland

Everything pointed to JOAN SUTHERLAND growing up to be a P.E. teacher, the career she'd decided on in sixth grade. She'd received scholarships to a suburban high school, then Indiana State University, where she competed in gymnastics before an injury led her to transfer to Eastern Illinois.

But even though she did end up briefly teaching gymnastics and dance in Arizona, it was the self-contained Amish classroom at Arthur Junior High where her teaching career really took off.

"I'd been taking leave-of-absence positions at the time because there was no teacher shortage," she says. "It was difficult to get a job. The school needed a teacher for the ... Amish classroom of seventh- and eighth-graders. I had enough qualifications in my school with my health students that I was able to begin teaching. At the time, you think about needing employment, but of course, that had never been on my radar."

Here's more from the veteran educator as she prepares to retire from her librarian position at Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond High.

One of the enjoyable things about teaching in that classroom was ... that it was a lot like being Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music." Since their education ends in eighth grade, you gently push the envelope of how much you can incorporate in their seventh- and eighth-grade years that don't step on the toes of their parents: telephone skills, typing, how to do a resume. What was on my plate was just like a whole plethora and I could just grab at anything.

I had to compromise in that ... not immediately, but I did stop assigning homework on Fridays, which was a huge cooperation maneuver. I learned that parents are unappreciative of homework on a Friday because there's chores and family time and church. I remember one day early on, the girls came in with their sleeping bags and they were going to a sleepover after school and they asked me for no homework on a Tuesday.

What you come to learn is that they are not going to have that social avenue, so that is their only time to have that exchange as girlfriends. So I did adjust because social growth is just as important as other things you are teaching. Without high school, they are missing out on the snarky comments and fights and jealousies, and all of these things are part of growing up.

I became the librarian at ALAH after 22 years because ... it was time for a change. I was ready for something else. My father is 96, still living and a World War II veteran, and the UI offered a full ride for a master's degree for the county I lived in.

Submit your nominations

On Wednesdays, we’ll spotlight an area educator who is making a difference in the classroom and community. To nominate, email N-G schools writer Lyndsay Jones at ljones@news-gazette.com or tweet her (@__lyndsayjones).

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