Full circle

English teacher teaches same students from elementary

English+teacher+Suzanne+Reiners+teaches+an+SEL+lesson+to+her+class.+Reiners+has+also+previously+taught+third+and+eigth+grade.

Matt Bolden

English teacher Suzanne Reiners teaches an SEL lesson to her class. Reiners has also previously taught third and eigth grade.

Resting on the top of the cabinet by the door of her room, yearbooks of her old students are lined up. After the roster of names for the year muster memories of interactions with students she’s taught before, teacher Suzanne Reiner cracks open the books.  

Reiner taught third and fourth grade at Lovejoy Elementary then eighth at the middle school. Now, it’s her first year teaching freshman and junior English, seeing some of her previous students.  

“One of the first things she told me when I met her was to see how her third graders have grown and she was super excited,” teacher Tamara Sakuda said. “She really cares a lot about her kids and spends a lot of time figuring out how to reach them.”

Reiner has been teaching in the district for 11 years. The kids from her first year graduated last year.

“It was interesting because I went back to Lovejoy Elementary when they had the seniors come walk the halls,” Reiner said. “That was neat to see them. It was a little bit sad too because it was the last year that Lovejoy Elementary would be open.”

Since Reiner teaches some of the same students and has taught in multiple grades, she gauges what foundational pieces her students have learned.

“I didn’t recognize them at all,” Reiner said. “They’ve grown physically, but it is a full circle feeling as a teacher to be able to see them. I consider juniors to be adults. They’re working and driving, and they definitely can’t use the ‘I never learned this before thing.’ Because some of the things that we’re doing in English, I know we have taught all the way back in third and fourth grade.”

Reiner didn’t only teach english. She taught every subject for her third graders, and when she had to pick a subject she taught math for fourth grade.

“I absolutely loved fourth-grade math,” Reiner said. “I don’t know that I would say that about high school, but fourth-grade math definitely. When I jumped to the middle school, you pretty much had to pick a subject area. English was my favorite.”

Reiner has been teaching for 22 years. She has taught and is certified to teach in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana outside of Texas.

“I think she’s a very good teacher, and she gives us good assignments to do during class,” student Josephine Sessions said. “There’s a good environment and all the students always get chances to participate together. It’s not only individual activities.”

Reiner wanted to be a lawyer, but after she married her pilot husband at age 20, they moved from place to place. She studied business at night and received her business degree nine years later. Reiner uses her business degree in her teaching.

“Being able to understand some of the math because with a business degree you do a lot of statistics, a lot of analyzing and problem-solving,” Reiner said. “Those kinds of skills are things that you naturally want anybody that’s going to leave any grade to have those real-world skills.” 

Reiner worked in the business world traveling from mill to mill buying aluminum and steel for her lock manufacturer boss before she became a teacher.

“My dad was in the metals industry, so I was interested in that piece,” Reiner said. “I also loved shopping, so that was what I did. I think I got to a point where I didn’t feel challenged anymore. That’s when it was, ‘Alright, what more do I want.’ Then teaching came back.”

Her husband supported her when she went back to college at age 30 to receive her master’s in education from Indiana University Bloomington.

“When it was time to go back to college, he [her husband] said, ‘Just quit work and go be a full-time student,’” Reiner said. “I was able to be a graduate student full time which was great. He’s always been very supportive, and I think he sees how hard teachers work. If it’s making me happy, then he’s good with it.”

Reiner has pictures of her third-grade classes on her cabinet with some of the same juniors she teaches.

“I want to leave this year, hopefully, making the lives of the students that I have a little bit better from having been in my class,” Reiner said.