“It’s one of the best jobs in the world,” said CR Anderson Middle School English teacher Suzy Fabian of the career she’s pursued for nearly three decades.
This year her peers chose her as Helena Educator of the Year -- an educator who “typifies the best in all of us.”
“It completely blew me away,” she said. “It’s like winning the lottery -- without buying a ticket.
“It’s just a super good feeling to have your peers nominate you.”
Taking the fear out of writing is one of her major goals for her students, she said.
Monday morning she was giving her CR Anderson eighth-graders a pep talk about the skills they’d gained for entering high school this fall.
Some of her final words of advice: “Please don’t leave here and write run-on sentences. Repeat after me -- I will not do this in ninth grade.”
Speaking to another English class, she advised, “I encourage you to speak up in high school. Don’t let education hit you in the face. Be a learner.”
Turns out, not only do peers admire Fabian’s teaching, but also her students.
“She was a great teacher,” said student Kaleb Metzger. “I learned a lot from her.”
Leigha Carter liked the range of topics they covered -- from stories to poetry to essays.
“She was really good and taught us a lot,” said Veronica Hansen. “We did a big project on the book, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.’ We learned a lot. It was about the Holocaust.”
In fact, that book resonated with many students as one of the best things they’d done in the class.
A few really enjoyed writing poetry, a topic Fabian introduces to spur students’ creative writing.
A lot of the eighth grade English curriculum tends to be factual and text-oriented, Fabian said, so she likes to mix in something creative whenever she can.
“She has so many great projects,” said eighth grade science teacher Shannon Thomas, one of three teachers who form a team with Fabian -- all working with the same group of CR Anderson eighth graders.
“We studied Race to the Sky and the Iditarod,” said Thomas, and Fabian had her students reading “Call of the Wild” by Jack London as part of it.
When they studied NASA, Fabian’s students wrote rocket poems.
“She’s just an incredible, caring teacher,” said Thomas. “She cares not only academically but personally.”
Fabian is admired for her willingness to volunteer for all sorts of school events, from chaperoning dances to working cross country meets.
“She is a very dedicated teacher,” said math teacher Reid Christensen, who has taught with her for seven years as a team member.
“She’s one teacher that doesn’t toot her own horn,” he said. “The good things we hear about her come from her students.”
“She has a huge heart,” he said. “She’s always willing to do whatever she can to help a kid out. She comes early and stays late to help kids succeed.”
A native of Pennsylvania and a teacher for 28 years, Fabian has been teaching eighth grade at CR Anderson for over 15 years.
She comes from a family of teachers, dating back to a grandfather who taught civics and was a principal, to aunts who were teachers and her brothers.
“I liked learning,” she said of what drew her in. And she likes middle schoolers.
One moment, they’re playing tag in the hall, she said, and the next moment, acting like they’re 25.
“That’s the beauty of middle school,” she said. It’s a time when they focus on “getting their personality sorted out.”
Helena Education Association sponsors the Educator of the Year Award, with nominations made by district employees.
If an employee receives sufficient nominations, his or her name is put on the ballot, and then voted on by the district’s teachers and paraprofessionals in May. Fabian was one of six nominees for this year’s award.