The classroom has always served as a second home for Susan Howard, and that’s the kind of experience she tries to replicate for her students. In only her second year as a teacher in Hall County, she has been named the 2022-23 Teacher of the Year for Hall County Schools.
A self-professed Army brat with a military father, Howard moved around a lot as a child, staying in Georgia for the most part but also living in Pennsylvania and Hawaii.
“It was tough, and I think that’s one reason why it’s so important to me as a teacher to make sure my classroom is a positive and happy place,” she said. “It was very important to me that every time we moved, the teacher was happy I was there and made me feel welcome. That was important, and that has made me very aware of how I react and respond to children as a teacher.”
She credits a moment of divine intervention for her role as the sole teacher for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math at Lanier Elementary School.
She said she loved her previous teaching job in Oconee County, but along with her husband and daughter, she decided to plant roots further north after finding a welcoming church in Dahlonega.
Her friends asked her, “Do you really want to move up to North Georgia?”
Guided by faith, she decided to make the move, but she needed to find another teaching job.
She attended the Hall County job fair, submitting her resume to various schools and feeling rather disheartened by the end.
“I was so tired,” she said. “And then the last stop was Lanier, and it was a rainy day, my hair was frizzy. And I was like, ‘I’m so tired, Lord, do I need to stop here?’ And I could hear him say, ‘Stop here.’ And so I did.”
She secured an interview, and the rest is history, as they say.
She thought she was interviewing for a homeroom teacher position, but they told her, “‘Susan, we were actually bringing you in here because we have looked at your resume and we really feel like you would be the perfect person to start our STEM program here.’”
“My mouth dropped,” she said. “It was a dream come true.”
She has long been passionate about project-based learning and has built the school’s STEM program from the ground up.