Teacher Spotlight: A Talk With Susan Howard


Antonio Avalos

Howard greeting students and their families at Northbrook’s annual Open House on September 29, 2021.

Over the next several weeks, NHS News will be reporting on teachers at Northbrook—spotlighting their unique and innovative classroom approaches, learning styles, and personalities.

For Susan Howard, becoming a teacher “was not actually a decision, since “she never considered anything else.”

As a young child she “would go home [and] sit [her] stuffed animals in rows, and ‘teach’ them what she had learned in school

Her classroom management structure would be considered by her and many students as “rules oriented.” Howard believes that rules and expectations should be followed, in and out of the classroom.

Discussing what is in the news or how it pertains directly to students is how she continues to connect lessons to the real world. Howard [assesses] students on growth and grades.

Frequently, the student who struggles to earn a 70 has grown more than the student who earns an A. In her opinion, grades “cannot [be] avoided.” “For some, a lot rides on grades, and for others, not so much.”

This is Howard 31st year at NHS. To Howard “the students at NHS are the best students in the district” She believes “that students here are worthy of teachers who believe in them and their ability to achieve whatever they set their minds to accomplish.”

Howard was asked what she believed was a challenge teachers face, and her response was technology. Students are taught at a young age to rely on technology without necessarily acquiring the basic skills first. Technology is a TOOL.

Social studies can contribute to our school, and despite society’s attitude toward social studies (dates and dead people), history allows us to understand HOW we arrived where we are today. Government instructs us on how the system works, the dangers of circumventing that system, and how to appropriately impact that system. Sociology and Psychology give us insight into why people and groups do what they do and how to appropriately (hopefully) respond. Economics teaches decision-making skills and the need to balance wants and needs. Choices we make are more likely to have the desired outcomes if the choices are made based on facts and not emotion.

As a Social Studies teacher in the last year, Howard has improved her knowledge and kept up with current events by reading. In the past year, she has read “Talk, Read, Talk, Write,” “Learning By Doing, What to Expect When Teaching GT, Hillbilly Elegy, The Greater Journey, The Johnstown Flood, and The Splendid and the Vile. “I also watch national and local news daily and read various newspapers such as WSJ.”