John Swett Elementary School, 2017 Winner

After giving up a journalism career with OC Metro Magazine and Channel 5 News, Suzanne now teaches kindergarten and is a second grade specialist at John Swett Elementary in Martinez. Every morning she greets each student at the door so that even before they cross the threshold of the classroom they receive a hug, high five, a compliment, or all three. She also establishes a relationship with each student’s family, opening a door into the life of the child. Using an app called “remind,” she sends pictures of what the child is learning throughout the day and sends quick texts such as: “Ask your child how many legs an insect has.” During her summer “vacations,” she has traveled to Russia 11 times to help train teachers who work with children in orphanages. She has also visited Rwanda twice, literally transforming a cargo container into a kindergarten classroom on one visit. On another trip, she spent a month instructing Early Childhood educators who had only an open field for a classroom. After the first week, teachers began coming from neighboring villages, some walking as far as 5 miles each way to observe her techniques.