Susan Zbinski, now a former 4th grade teacher at the , had one exciting final year of teaching. She not only welcomed her first granddaughter, Charlotte, while planning for her upcoming retirement, but she was also honored as Stoughton’s 2011 Teacher of the Year.
In a crowded Sapphire Manor in Sharon, on June 9, many esteemed Stoughton Public School teachers and administrators, both past and present, gathered to celebrate Zbinski’s remarkable career.
Over a wonderful dinner and festive décor, numerous colleagues and friends highlighted memories of working with Susan. There were speeches and songs, but more importantly, a room full of warmth and appreciation for a remarkable educator and person.
David Guglia, Assistant Principal at the expressed his gratitude,
“Susan was an exceptional teacher and a wonderful mentor. She was instrumental in my development as a teacher at the Hansen School. Susan's warmth, kindness and willingness to work with young teachers set her apart.”
“Teacher of the Year” is presented to one Stoughton teacher each school year, Sheila Osborne, a past recipient of the award, explained. Stoughton teachers nominate their peers for this award, which recognizes teachers who represent community service or Stoughton Teachers Association service, strong teaching principles, etc. A teacher is chosen in each town that is part of the Norfolk County Teachers Association.
Perhaps it is Zbinksi’s positive and intimate knowledge of the Stoughton Public School System as both an educator and a student that contribute to her success.
She attended some of Stoughton’s most notable schools, “First to the Clapp, then , then , the Stoughton Junior High and finally , Class of 1966”, she wrote via email.
Teaching is often said to be a “calling” more than a career choice and it appears to be no different for Zbinski.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher ever since I was little. I used to play school with my dolls all the time,” she said.
Osborne, Zbinski’s former colleague and long time friend, described their meeting and tenure together during her speech at the Teacher of the Year ceremony.
“Susan Zbinski first became a teacher in the Stoughton Public Schools at the , then North Elementary School. Her name was Miss Moody and she taught one year of fifth grade and nine years of sixth grade there.
“In 1982, after her second maternity leave, Sue began at the Chemung Hill School. She was excited to be a teacher there because her sixth grader teacher whom she loved, Helen Hansen, was then principal. Sue taught 5th grade and in 1983 we became the 4th grade team at the Hansen School. Together we taught side by side (for) 24 years.”
Over her 40-year career, the field of teaching and education has undergone some significant changes.
“One big change is [that] classes used to be organized homogeneously—for example, the "high" class—and now they are heterogeneous, which I like much better,“ Zbinski said.
“Children are much better writers now than they were when I first started,” she continued. “The way they organize essays, use similes, and amazing vocabulary is fantastic. In math they still need to know their facts, but they are also taught algebra, geometry and data analysis, at a much younger age.”
“Technology has had an amazing influence on learning. Using the SMART boards has really been a great teaching tool. I can remember when we just had reel-to-reel tape recorders, filmstrip projectors and if we were lucky and 8mm movie projector.”
As she transitions into the uncharted waters of retirement, Zbiniski reflects on the aspects of her career she will miss, such as, “seeing the children grow and learn every day.” She said she will also miss her colleagues. “[The Hansen] is like a big loving family.”
Though Mrs. Zbinski will never, really stop teaching (she’s already a part of the Hansen School Council) she does get to do it on her own schedule now.
Her advice for new teachers: “Show the children that you love them, give them self confidence to believe in themselves, so they can be successful in school and life. Also, make learning fun!”
Her son Ed Zbinski concluded his heartfelt speech at the Teacher of the Year dinner with some wit:
“Congratulations Mrs. Zbinski, Stoughton Teacher of the Year, on such a wonderful career and good luck on the next chapter of your life, which I’m told will include dinner at 4:30, soft foods, and winters in Florida.”
Zbinski has already booked trips to Nantucket, St. Kitts and Aruba but there was no mention on the itinerary of “Early Bird Specials.” After speaking briefly to those close to Zbinski, it is pretty clear that she won’t be slowing down any time soon.
Ed Zbinski, Susan’s son
“My mom's always been both a mother and a teacher to Amy, Joe and I. The hours she put in with homework and projects with the three of us probably could have been considered a second job. But we're all better for it, and I think as I've gotten older, I've gained a new appreciation for what she taught and how she taught. As a kid, you think it's just your mom pestering you to get your work done, but for us it was mom teaching us with the book and the life lessons of hard work and persistence.”
Dr. Marguerite Rizzi, Superintendent, Stoughton Public Schools
“Sue Zbinski is a kind, nurturing, highly intelligent, modest, honest person who has contributed to her school and community in a quiet and consistent way for many years. Her grace and professionalism have provided leadership in the Hansen School, and she is one of the big reasons it is the wonderful place it is.”
Faye Polillio, Principal, Hansen Elementary School
“Mrs. Zbinski is one of the most highly recognized professionals that I have had the opportunity to work with as a parent, colleague, principal and friend. She possess so many amazing qualities (kindness, respectfulness, consistency, fairness, compassion, and on and on) that have made the time that I have known her a time for me to learn, watch, reflect and appreciate.
“I am happy for her and for the beginning of this new chapter in her life. She is a very special person and I wish her the very best.
“I am sure that we will be seeing Mrs. Zbinski joining our very dedicated retired teachers (Mrs. Rendini, Mrs. Osborne, and Mrs. Miller) in the Hansen hallways volunteering---well that is my hope.”