Susan Converse Named Illinois Teacher of the Year


Ryan Ash

Mrs. Converse speaks with a group of teachers at Monday's award reception.

Joshua Perry, Co-editor-in-chief

Edwardsville High School’s own Susan Converse was named 2019 Illinois Teacher of the Year last Saturday.

Mrs. Converse, the special education teacher who founded the Tiger Den, EHS’s student-run cafe, was awarded the honor at the annual Those Who Excel banquet in Normal, Illinois last Saturday.

In addition to having the opportunity to speak at teacher workshops and gatherings in 2019, Mrs. Converse will be allowed to attend the National Teacher of the Year program and pass on her knowledge to a more public audience.

Dr. Cramsey recognized Mrs. Converse’s achievements at a reception after school Monday. He said that her contributions to EHS’s learning environment and her successes with students make her a very deserving recipient of the award.

“We love what you do and we love you, so thank you,” Dr. Cramsey said.

Mrs. Converse said that those successes have been a direct result of the commitment she’s given to helping her students. Perseverance is a crucial element of her teaching style and personality, and she said that it’s never failed her.

“Probably the most important thing I try to remind myself is to never give up on a student. Sometimes it seems as though you try, you try, you try, and you just can’t get through,” she said. “But I haven’t experienced that if I stuck there long enough.”

Hannah Beck started working at the Tiger Den last year as a senior and has continued ever since. She said that Mrs. Converse is worthy of Teacher of the Year because her dedication and encouragement has improved the culture at EHS and the relationship between special needs students and their customers.

“Mrs. Converse deserves the award because she is always putting the students first,” Beck said. “She goes above and beyond…she is constantly telling everyone how well they are doing and keeping a positive atmosphere, especially when things get stressful.”

Any issue students experience behind the counter at the Tiger Den isn’t something Mrs. Converse sees as a barrier. Instead, it’s a learning opportunity. Mrs. Converse is always pushing her students to do better and supporting them—a principle that she believes lies at the heart of her profession.

“Anyone struggling, no matter what—whether they are special needs, or just having a hard time in their life—it’s our responsibility to do what we can to help each other,” she said. “And I find that that’s just an integral part of good teaching: connecting and caring about your students.”

Teaching is a passion that Mrs. Converse has fully devoted herself to. She said her motivation comes from seeing growth in her students—something she feels any teacher can relate to. It’s what inspires her most as an educator.

“When you see the progress in any particular student, that movement closer to where you want them to be or where they can be,” she said, “it just makes it all worth it.”