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Kia Educator of the Month for December, 2012

Susan Mercon, Special Education Teacher

Robert Reznar, Physical Education Specialist, Orozco Academy

How long have you been teaching? What grade do you teach?

I started teaching immediately out of college; I just started my 36th year of teaching. My entire career has been devoted to teaching K-8 Special Education Students, primarily students with Autism. I also coached varsity softball and swimming for ten years at a Chicago Public High School.

Why did you decide you wanted to be a teacher? Are there any particular teachers who have influenced you in the past?

Teaching was always my first choice for a career. Although there were many teachers that influenced me throughout my education, it was my own mother who made a lasting impression on my career choice of becoming a teacher. While I was a young girl in elementary school, my mom worked as a school lunchroom manager for a Chicago Public School, and she would bring me to work with her on special occasions. This instilled the importance of education and working with children.

Describe your favorite teaching memory or experience.

Having taught for 36 years, there are many favorite memories that come rushing to my mind; however, my absolute favorite memory is having students come back to visit me who I have taught or coached in the past. When they come back to thank me or simply to tell me how their lives have progressed since I’ve had them in class, my heart swells with pride and joy.

How do teachers/educators impact the lives of their students? What do you hope that you personally can do to have a positive impact on the students you work with?

In my mind, what can a person become without the influence of a teacher? There is absolutely nothing that anyone can be without the assistance of a teacher to influence, guide, instruct, lead, care for, and provide love and encouragement to the lives that they are entrusted with day in and day out. On a daily basis, I provide my own students and the other students at Henry Clay School with not only educational direction, such as reading, writing, math, etc., but sometimes, more importantly, I just listen to their wants and their needs. This, in itself, requires patience and the know-how of being an impartial adult in their lives who they can trust with their day-to-day problems.

Describe how your professional role has made an impact thus far. What goals, if any, have you set in an effort to make even more of a difference in the future?

It is my hope that my professional role as an educator has touched the lives of many Chicago students with whom I have had the pleasure of working with and teaching. I sincerely hope that these students will grow up to become well-rounded, educated individuals with a strong sense of who they are. My goals remain the same: to influence, guide, instruct, lead, care for, and provide love and encouragement to the lives that are entrusted upon me on a daily basis. I want to make sure that the students I have been blessed to teach, coach, and mentor will make sound decisions in their adult lives because of the impact I have had on their lives as students.

If your students could end each school year having learned only one thing, what would you want that to be?

At the end of the school year, my wish is that all of my students will have self-awareness and pride in themselves and all of their accomplishments.

What was your reaction when you learned that Nada nominated you, and then when you were selected as the Kia Educator of the Month?

My initial reaction when Nada Milanovic nominated me was an unbelievable sense of heartfelt thanks and pride. When I received the phone call that I was selected as the Kia Educator of the Month, I was stunned, elated, overwhelmed with emotions, and quite frankly humbled.

As Teacher of the Month, how will you spend your $1,000 award money?

As the Kia Educator of the Month, my $1,000 award money will be well-spent. As a special education teacher, community-based outings are a wonderful opportunity for my students. Many of my students do not have an opportunity to experience a world beyond their own neighborhoods; therefore, this award money would allow them to broaden their horizons with more community-based field trips. With this money, there are many awesome community outings that I can take my students on. These outings require public transportation fees, using money to purchase items at grocery stores (the students making their own purchases of said items to bring back to the school to make something special), purchasing their own food from restaurants on our local field trip outings. Additionally, I will purchase art and craft supplies as well as educational supplies for my classroom.