We are thrilled to celebrate Susie Fleenor as our Feature Teacher this month. She has made such a positive impact on our Parish Day School family. Thank you for your commitment to Early Childhood Education and your love of all things preschool (especially our amazing playground)!
How did you decide to a get into the field of Early Childhood Education?
After the birth of my first child, a friend encouraged me to host a Discovery Toys party and I loved the mission of the company and the opportunity to earn money while staying at home. I decided to become a consultant and went to my first convention. I attended so many educational sessions I was hooked. I became enthralled with child brain development and the power of play. I had earned my Masters in Athletic Administration right after I got married, thinking one day I would be an Athletic Director but God had other plans. I loved talking to parents about how their children learned by playing. When my second child started preschool at PDS I was offered a position as a Movement Specialist and I found my calling with 3-5-year-olds.
Why did you want to teach at Parish Day School?
I chose to stop working as a Physical Education teacher at Norfolk Academy after my second child was born in 1996. A dear friend, Stace Nelson, was in charge of scheduling workers for the ESC nursery for the weekly women’s Bible study. She offered me the position since I could bring Ben and Kristi so I spent Thursday mornings listening to the parents and children walking down the hall sounding so joyful! When I started looking for a preschool for Kristi when she turned 3 PDS was the first place I officially toured. I looked at a few others, but again, God’s will was spoken where least expected. I was in line at the old Ames on the boulevard and the two moms in front of me were raving about what a fabulous school it was! I enrolled Kristi and when Ben started there three years later Cathrine Dozier hired me as an assistant and Movement Specialist under the wise direction of Sandy Monger and Karen Washburn.
Do you have a role model or hero that inspired you?
PDS has been blessed by a long lineage of truly inspirational teachers. Sandy Monger taught me how to incorporate movement and music. She also got me hooked on Trike-a-thons. We originally did it for the Shriners Hospital and now continue her tradition for CHKD. Karen Washburn modeled that a quiet voice is best to get children’s attention and that it’s possible to cut more than one piece of paper at a time. Susan McRee’s wild and crazy side encouraged me to step up my wardrobe for crazy days. Connie Nowak taught both of my children and she taught me to pick my battles with my own children. Mismatched socks are OK! Lastly, Jean Edwards, truly a blessing to PDS for so many years, is my ultimate role model. She gave her heart and soul to the families and teachers. I can only pray that I touch as many lives as she has.
What do you bring to Parish Day School that makes you unique?
I think the fact that I have worn so many hats over the years gives me a unique insight into the history of the school and what makes it the special place that it is. My coaching background also tends to make me very positive and encouraging and we emphasize teamwork a lot in our room. I love being outside, and have enjoyed setting up our playground this year. I hope everyone knows what an amazing space our playground is!
What is your teaching philosophy?
The Power of PLAY! Our students learn best by doing. They are moving, wiggling balls of energy. They are not wired at the age of three to sit still. Engaging them with interesting centers, new activities and communicating with them by asking open-ended questions while they are playing is the best way to gauge their learning. We should let them lead the learning and hang on for the ride!
What is your favorite thing about being part of the Parish Day School Team?
Having such a great partnership with Laura Scheib and Wendy deTorres. We each have our strengths that complement each other and they know how to keep me in line! Laura is our science and engineering expert and truly knows each child’s personality and needs. Wendy’s enthusiasm is contagious and she is an incredibly gifted artist. You should see the stained glass window she created for our chapel since we can’t go to the real chapel this year.
I also deeply cherish the bonds I’ve created with families. I have kept in touch with many, which is tricky when they go to so many different schools and move with the military. Being blessed to teach the second and third child in a family when I met them when they were first born means so much to me.
Do you have a favorite time of year at Parish Day School?
Not really? Every day is a great day when you get to play with little people and work with a fabulous group of teachers. I do love organizing the Trike-a-thon and seeing all the students riding their trikes around the course out front. We have had many students benefit from the care CHKD provides and it’s rewarding to be able to give back to them.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto?
We say it every day at Parish Day and I frequently say it prior to putting my feet on the floor in the morning!
This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!