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Suzanne Foster

Caramie Schnell

Suzanne Foster was in the third grade when she knew she wanted to be a teacher. She had a British teacher by the name of Ms. Gray who read to her and the class every day. Suzanne was hooked.”This will be thirty years in education, Suzanne says. “I’m like the energizer bunny–I’m still going and I still enjoy what I do.”It was a few more years before Suzanne figured out more of the specifics for her future career. She was a freshman in high school when she knew that she would be a high school English teacher.”Knowing as a freshman in high school what I wanted to do for the rest of my life made it easier to make the choices to set me in the right direction,” she says.In college Suzanne blossomed and got involved with not only college theater, but also community theater. For Suzanne, drama provided a reprieve, a chance to relax while also tapping her creative side.Suzanne was a Navy brat, making her first cross-country trip when she was only six-months-old. She pinballed between her birth state, California, and the East Coast until she was in the sixth grade. She attended both middle school and high school in Fargo, N.D. after her father was transferred to the Navy Reserve Training Center there. “I didn’t know whether to expect ‘Little House on the Prairie’ or what,” she says with a laugh.Suzanne received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from North Dakota University. She graduated in ’75 with double majors in Education and English and minors in drama and French and journalism, all areas of study that would prepare her well for her future endeavors.”Basically in smaller schools, when you are the English teacher you are the jack-of-all trades,” Suzanne says.In the past she has sponsored the yearbook, been the teacher editor of the newspaper, and sponsored both the cheerleader and dance team.It was in 1987 that Suzanne interviewed for a position at Battle Mountain High School. She’d been applying for jobs in a couple of different states, Arizona, Montana and Wyoming included. She didn’t really know where she’d end up, she professes. And now Suzanne has lived in the valley for 18 years, most recently in Edwards with her 14-year-old cat Frisco.The common thread through all her years as a teacher is the two things that she’s most passionate about, her work with theater and speech. In 2001 Suzanne was recognized by the National Federation of Speech and Debate for her hard work and was named coach of the year. She was awarded a national award in 2002 called the Region Six award for both her local and regional speech team contributions.As Suzanne says, not every kid is an athlete, not every child is brilliant with their schoolwork. Some kids are artistic, some are athletic. But no matter where they excel, every student needs to feel successful in some area so that they are motivated to do well in all areas.”I’ve worked in speech since the first day I started teaching,” Suzanne says. “There is something about that special look that comes over a kids face when they receive a ribbon.”She lists off names of past students that stood out, that still hold a special place in her heart, “Josh Leach, Will VanCuren, Kristen Johnson, Matt Sargent,” some people might remember some of the names from past BMHS productions directed by Suzanne.Currently she is working with six Battle Mountain students who are in the process of taking all sorts of stories about Minturn and putting together a play based on the quaint town’s history as part of it’s 2004 Centennial celebration events. Locals will have a chance to eat, drink and be merry come November when the first live production of the play will take place at The Saloon in Minturn.”The students themselves are going to be the omnipresent voices and narrators as opposed to a figurehead like William A. Minturn for whom Minturn was named,” she says. “I have some very talented people involved with this production so far.”This coming fall (Suzanne’s 18th year at BMHS) the local high school will undergo many modifications. The school is initiating many changes as a result of the TAP Program. One of the modifications being made is to the schedule; the school will be switching to trimesters, with students taking five, 70-minute classes every day for 12-weeks at a time. Suzanne herself will be transitioning into the position of a mentor teacher.”Change is always scary but I prefer to be an instrument of change and active part of it, rather than have it done to me, which is why I applied to be a mentor teacher,” she says. Suzanne will also be one of the evaluators as well, which she admits is probably the closest thing to administration that she wants to get to. Since there wasn’t a program in existence for high school like what BMHS plans to do, they’ve been putting things together as they go along.”I think it will be a good thing for students in the long run,” she says. “Battle Mountain is basically going to become a professional learning community.”By that Suzanne means that interventions with struggling students will happen much earlier than they previously did, with teachers jumping into to see if the student isn’t passing the class due to a lack of understanding, because of attitude problems, or for another reason entirely. Though Suzanne admits that implementing the program will be a challenge and could have some bumps in the road, she thinks that overall the experience will be positive.Who is Suzanne outside of grading papers and directing plays, outside of being Ms. Foster to the hundreds and hundreds of the Valley’s Shakespeare, English and speech students?Well, she is a Sunday school teacher at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Minturn. She is a gardener of flowers and plants, as well as talent. In her spare time she’s a zealous cook and a patron of Denver-area theater, often attending shows at the Buell Theatre.”Suzanne is very giving of her time and of her energy, says Berneil Bannon, a fellow BMHS teacher and Suzanne’s good friend. “She is passionate about things both outside of teaching and in, and more than anything that passion is what really comes through in all she does.” VT


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