Looking Back and Looking Ahead: Centro Romero Says Goodbye to an Inspiring Leader
When I decided to do an interview with Susanna for a special edition of the newsletter, I asked for testimonials about her impact on Centro Romero from the teachers and staff. The outpouring of praise was as inspiring as the woman herself. In her short time here, Susanna has been the life-saver keeping the Adult Education Program afloat on a sea of troubles; she has been the life-blood of this program, keeping us vital and thriving. The following interview gives some background on Susanna and her advice for whoever has the unenviable job of filling her shoes.
Interspersed with the questions are words from teachers and staff about Susanna’s impact in her time at Centro Romero
Given the decision taken by Susanna, to separate from the institution, it is sad and nostalgic to accept this reality, however in the short time that she has remained in the Department of Education, we appreciate the efficient and fruitful work carried out, our recognition and gratitude for all her activities.
Q: Growing up, did you always know you wanted to be an educator?
A: Definitely no! Growing up, I always wanted to be a doctor or a journalist. When I was in college, I volunteered to teach conversational English to some students at the university, mostly from Taiwan, and I just loved it! I spent more and more time working with them (and just hanging out), and I loved learning about the differences and commonalities among cultures. I ended up going to inner Mongolia and China to teach, and I discovered how little I knew about teaching. So I came back and went to grad school for adult education and ended up teaching in Minneapolis, Minnesota, working through the school district doing adult basic education.
I am so sorry to see Susanna leave. She did an amazing job getting our online classes up and running. And while she was setting up systems, getting books for the classes, testing, and more, she couldn’t have been nicer or more encouraging. All of us really united behind her and wanted to do our best for her. She will be greatly missed.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher in school?
A: In high school, I had an art teacher who I really loved. His name was Mr. Olson and he really made everyone feel included and welcome, people who didn’t really fit in with all the high school cliques. He made us feel like our ideas and experiences were valid and encouraged us to express them through art.
Even during this difficult time, Susanna jumped right in to support students and teachers. She had to juggle a lot, but she made sure students had books while also taking care of safety for our students. Thank you, Susanna!
Q: What was it that attracted you to Centro Romero? What was it that made you choose this place over other options?
A: The mission of Oscar Romero and his example. And the impression I got from Katie, the former director, and many other people that I talked to, that they really felt a sense of belonging here, like it was a community or a family. Once you’re a part of it, people really know you and take care of you and make sure your needs are met. I also really liked the responsiveness of members of Adult Ed. and the other departments to the needs of the people we serve. The way they didn’t just say, this is an education department, and that’s all we’re going to offer, but instead said, “what do you need in order to be able to learn?” That’s why I stayed. I didn’t really know that coming into it, but as I saw that, it really made me respect all my coworkers in the department.
I’ve never come to respect a boss so quickly. Centro Romero is losing a gem. Susanna took on a very difficult challenge and made things run so smoothly it was as if nothing had changed. In fact, her skills in digitizing the program will benefit us all for years to come.
Q: Is there something about your time here that you’ll always remember?
A: Over the summer, as a department, coming together and planning how we’re going to offer instruction online. Meeting with the staff and the teachers, we just spent so much time talking about how we were going to offer instruction online. It’s one thing to start in person and then move online. Starting online is very different. We just spent so much time planning out how we were going to do things, with the google voice number and doing testing by appointment and everything. What I’ll really remember is seeing the results of all our planning come together.
Susanna has been an amazing leader! She’s been tireless in supporting teachers so we could really focus on students’ learning and well-being. With her leadership, Centro Romero not only kept classes going, but added an entirely new class to meet the needs of higher-level students and increased enrollment at the higher levels. She will be greatly missed!
Q: Last question: Do you have any words of wisdom for your replacement?
A: I would say trust the team! The best thing about our department is the people. Everyone brings a lot of experience to their role, and they have a lot of good ideas that have really improved the program, even just in the last year as we’ve been dealing with COVID. That and change really is positive and will lead us in the direction we need to go to be able to serve students. And limit the number of Zoom meetings. People do better when they’re not in Zoom meetings all day. That and let’s get more textbooks… and more computers!
Thank you Susanna for countless hours on virtual calls strategizing to make the Adult Ed program work better for students, volunteers, and staff. While prioritizing everyone’s safety, you helped us expand the program’s possibilities and reach more of the community, with many creative initiatives and clear guidelines. We are emerging even stronger from the most challenging year in recent memory thanks to your determined support.
From all of us in Adult Ed, thank you, Susanna! You will be sorely missed!