Zephyr Cove kindergarten teacher retires after 34 years
Over her 34 years of teaching kindergarten, Konnie Susich had one important rule: one hug for each student every day.
“By the end of each year, I really do feel like they are my kids,” said Susich. “I’ve taught 1,000 children over the years — plus I have two of my own — so I guess you could say I have 1,002 kids.”
After a long and meaningful career as a teacher, Susich retired from Zephyr Cove Elementary School this year.
“It’s funny because the two things I told myself I would never be were a teacher or a secretary. I had a duel degree in criminology and sociology,” said Susich. “But I eventually went back and got my teaching degree, started teaching, and I couldn’t have picked a career I love more than teaching.”
For Susich, her work as a teacher has been more than just a job.
“I’ve made dear, dear friends as far as other teachers. They are family. And the children have been without a doubt the most unbelievable part,” expressed Susich. “I’ve never had a bad student. Sometimes students come in with bad situations, but never a bad child. They are all good at heart, and it makes me smile when I go to school.”
Her first year of teaching, around Christmas time, Susich remembered a young student coming to her crying. While other students brought in gifts for the teachers, his family couldn’t afford to, so he brought her a piece of gum.
“On his way to school he was so hungry he started chewing it. He felt so bad about it,” said Susich. “So we took the piece of gum, wrapped it in a clear plastic bag with a bow, and hung it on the Christmas tree in the classroom. To this day that still hangs on my tree every year.”
And when Susich needed support in return, it was the Zephyr Cove Elementary community that came together for her. In 2009, Susich was diagnosed with cancer and had to undergo two bone marrow transplants.
“When I got back I couldn’t believe how the community rallied and did fundraisers and all these things to support me,” said Susich. “I’m in remission now, but when I would come into school and not feel well, it was the children in my class, their smiles and hugs and love that made my life an absolute paradise.”
The support came full circle on Sunday, July 23, when over 100 friends, colleagues and former students gathered at Nevada Beach to celebrate her retirement.
It was a tough decision to step back from teaching, but Susich said she is ready to spend more time with her three grandchildren and make way for the next generation of kindergarten teachers.
Ashley Boulet, a Zephyr Cove Elementary alum and a mentee of Susich, has filled her position.
“Konnie with her teaching legacy, she has left impossible shoes to fill,” said Boulet. “She really does exemplify what a teacher at any grade should be.
“She taught me to be patient, relax and just enjoy each day because it’s the kids’ first experience in school. It’s so much more than teaching them the curriculum; it’s about teaching them to love learning.”
Though Susich has plans to travel more, she hopes to continue substitute teaching.
“I think that I’m probably one of the richest people in the world for the friendships and the people that I’ve come in touch with through teaching,” said Susich. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I’m very rich in my life.”