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Retiring Teacher: Sue Nielsen

Brenda Smith
Ms. Nielson posing for a picture in her office just a few weeks away from retiring from Grayslake North

Sue Nielen, the soon-to-be former English Department Chair, is one of the teachers retiring this year. Nielsen has worked at Grayslake North for 16 years. She started working in education in 1987, making it 37 years in total, after working in professional theatre, specifically the Chicago Opera Theater and then the Goodman Theatre as stage management.

Nielsen originally majored in theatre, and later on worked in professional theatre in her first year out of undergrad, but she decided that professional theatre wasn’t the path for her. This led her to get a job at the first school she ever worked at as a department chair. Her job at North contains many different responsibilities.

“So it’s working with teachers on curriculum and approaches to instruction. It is coordinating kind of the English staff, coordination, like what the district in the front office wants done, and communicating that to them. And what are the needs of the English teachers to cause them to be successful? It’s also hiring. So a lot of working with newer teachers and kind of onboarding them, effectively meeting them, and then even mentoring them in their first years to cause them to be most effective in the classroom,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen was always well respected amongst the other English teachers here, given that her job consisted of reflecting on the efforts and strategies of the English teachers, along with helping them strengthen and improve those strategies, so much so to the point that she has been compared to a rhinoceros for always being able to step in during a situation.

“Ms. Nielsen is the rhino, like the rhinoceros, because there’s this myth that in the savannah, if there’s a fire, rhinos will run in from like, 50 miles away. They’ll put out the fire because they don’t want the grass to burn, and that is Ms. Nielsen,” said English teacher Robyn Steinmetz.
Speaking of reflecting on the strengths of the English teachers, the English teachers themselves have come out and talked about how their teaching has improved due to the feedback they received from Sue Nielsen.

“Ms. Nielsen and I have some helpful collaborative discussions on best teaching practices that have expanded my teaching,” said English teacher Marcia Meyer.
In terms of what Nielsen plans on doing after retirement, she plans on working on areas involving homebound tutoring, putting an end to gun violence, and fighting for the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.

“So I have a couple of areas that I might try to pursue or help out. Homebound tutoring is one thing. I think kiddos coming out of hospitalization for whatever reason and coming back to the school system, I think having someone with them who’s been in a school and knows that journey can help them. Kind of give you to others. I think something needs to happen with guns. I just heard a statistic that kids and teenagers, the number one reason for death are firearms in the United States, and that just shouldn’t be. And then the last thing I think, our LGBTQIA+ community is marginalized in ways that are not productive. I mean, well just look at all the laws that are being passed,” Nielsen said.

English teachers have also shared their farewells with Ms. Nielsen, hoping things go well for her after her retirement, thanking her for all the efforts she’s contributed to throughout her time at Grayslake North.

“This is a well-earned retirement, and she should be proud of all the work that she’s done for North. I mean, on top of being an English teacher for so long, she revamped SAGA. Back before I came in, and back before a couple of other English teachers were sponsors, we didn’t have a SAGA and she brought that into light. So I think that recognition for that as well as all of her other work as a teacher, I think is really important,” Steinmetz said.

The English teachers were also reminiscing about their key memories with Nielsen, as Marcia Meyer has shared when talking about her personal experiences with meetings where Nielsen would focus on the effectiveness of her and other English teachers.

“I will always remember an English meeting when she reflected on each teacher’s strengths. It was very touching and validating,” Meyer said.

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About the Contributor
Hector Ocampo
It'll say Hector here, for now. I am a freshman this year, making me a new member of the Newspaper Club. I plan on joining the Pen & Paper Club, and I look forward to writing all sorts of articles, whether it'd be how someone's first week of school was or what the students think about the school year. I like journalism, and I think it's fun to get an insight on something.

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