"I had always wanted to help others after I had been helped so much. It's been a very fulfilling thing for me."
Here is Sue's story.
Susan “Sue” Crook was born in 1949 and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. She was a smart girl who, when she turned five and started school, knew she wanted to teach. She never wavered, and considers herself very lucky to have chosen a field that turned out to exceed her expectations. She finished high school, went straight to college, and started teaching first grade in 1971.
Sue taught for 40 years. The job she had dreamed about for nearly 20 years began as a nightmare. She was overwhelmed and felt entirely unprepared when faced with a classroom full of six-year-olds. Fortunately, Grace Green, a seasoned teacher in the classroom next to hers, noticed Sue needed some guidance. She took her under her wing and provided mentorship over the course of the year. This turned her first year from frightening to, as Sue describes it, “an awesome experience.” Grace and Sue remained close, with Grace serving as her mentor for many years. They fell out of touch for several years when they were no longer teaching in the same school. It was when Sue found out Grace’s granddaughter was a student in her class that they reconnected. Sue was thrilled to see her original mentor at school conferences and Grandparents Day. She felt great pride knowing Grace felt confident in Sue’s ability to teach her granddaughter.
When Sue turned 50, No Child Left Behind was put into place in Iowa schools, and Sue was one of the ground-level teachers selected to train mentors in the program. She was a “mentor of mentors.” For ten years she taught many teachers how to mentor other teachers. She loved the experience and felt fulfilled as she passed on her skills to newer teachers. Following this, the school she had been teaching in for 20 years asked her to mentor first year teachers. This one- on-one mentoring was similar to what she received from Grace many years ago, and was meaningful because she was not only preparing them for their future with regard to obtaining their required certifications, she also provided emotional support to them. Like Grace, she listened to them and didn’t offer unsolicited advice. Rather, she waited for them to come to her when they felt they needed help.
This technique was so successful that many teachers who weren’t even her assigned mentees came to her home on weekends to learn from her, and she became close with many of them. She describes the joy she felt working with the young teachers as “fulfilling.” She felt a kinship with these women that went beyond classroom mentorship. She became close friends with many of them, and they remain friends today.
At 65, Sue’s close friendships include her mentees, past and present. These mentees and their children and grandchildren became extended family, and although she didn’t have children of her own, her family became large and extended, just as if she had. These relationships continue to be incredibly meaningful to her. Sue is satisfied that she was a good mentor and that she leaves a legacy of good teachers who are continuing the work she has valued since she started school at age five.