Teacher of the Week

Email nominations to Anthony Zilis at azilis@news-gazette.com

During a career that began in 2007, Susan Kim has taught preschool, middle school math and at the University of Illinois’ Intensive English Institute. Then, this week’s Teacher of the Week went to Bahrain to teach fourth- and fifth-grade math.

Kim brought that wealth of experience to Stratton Academy of the Arts nine years ago, where she now leads a Multilingual Learner Department that includes a dual-language French program. In addition to her skill as a teacher, Kim uses her wealth of experience to mentor young teachers and support families, principal Stephanie Eckels said.

“Mrs. Kim is a strong advocate for our students who speak a different language,” Eckels said. “Our parents respect Mrs. Kim and often reach out to her for support even for resources beyond the school. Mrs. Kim does it all.”

I find my work important because ... I love being able to help navigate my multilingual-learner students and families to a new country, culture, language and school system. Having lived in the Middle East before as a teacher, I’ve appreciated how much people have welcomed and helped me transition to living in an unfamiliar country. I hope to do the same for our families here.

Regardless of whether my students have been here for a few months or more than a few years, my students are so positive, so brave and hungry to learn. Many of my students can speak three languages, and one of my roles as an MLL teacher is to help my students transition and be successful in the general education classrooms. More than 20 percent of our student population at Stratton are our MLL students!

I became a teacher because ... I love being able to help others and hope to be a positive influence. I think one of the best ways to do that is to be a teacher.

My favorite/most unique lesson that I teach is ... I enjoy teaching my persuasive unit to my fourth- and fifth-graders. My students really get into all four language components — practicing their main idea and detail skills by reading about different kid inventors, watching “Shark Tank” and having discussions about various products, lots of persuasive writing, and many fun speaking debates to persuade one another. Their final group project is to come up with their own invention. In the past, I’ve held an invention fair at our school where my students get a chance to persuade other students and teachers why their product is the one they should buy (each gets a fake check). My students take so much pride in their work, and they also get lots of speaking opportunities to practice their English skills.

My most fulfilling moment on the job was ... not one specific moment but just the day-to-day things, like any time a student’s eyes light up because they’re able to solve a math problem or answer a reading question and get very excited about it, or any time a parent thanks me for helping them or their child navigate something they needed help with, or when a student is proud of their work progress and growth over the span of a school year. I love seeing students walking in as kindergarteners and then seeing how much they’ve grown and changed leaving as incoming 6th graders with so much potential. I also love collaborating with my awesome MLL team and coworkers since collaboration is so important when sharing students.

Something else I’m passionate about is ... my family! I love spending time with my husband and daughter. They always bring out the best in me and have always encouraged me to be the best I can be. I also love getting to meet and know international students and families not only in our school community but also on the UI campus.

My favorite teacher and subject to study in school was … Mr. Kosobayashi, my high school Orchestra teacher for all four years at Hoffman Estates High School. It was largely due to my relationship with him. He was a consistent and positive teacher figure in my life for the entirety of my high school. He always made it a joy to be in class. Even though I was never very good at playing the violin, he always made his students feel like they all had an important role to contribute despite our skills. My favorite subject in school was probably chemistry in high school.

I engage students during this strange time by ... I love being able to see all of our students back in person now! With the exception of following COVID-19 guidelines like wearing masks, washing hands frequently, lots of cleaning, and “trying” to socially distance, everything else seems back to normal. I think it was a hard year last school year for everyone, especially our students, and I’m thankful we are able to teach all of our students in person again.

If I weren’t a teacher, I would be ... maybe an event coordinator or an actuary. I’m the type of person who would like to try a lot of different things, but I have always wanted to be a teacher.