Suzanne Wilcox always knew she wanted to be a teacher and NHS prepared her well to excel in her life-long career in the Needham Public Schools. Her career began in 1972 as a student teacher at Mitchell Elementary School and ended this past spring after an 11 year tenure as the principal of Eliot Elementary School. Suzanne graduated from Needham High in 1969 and looks back on her time there as one of the happiest of her life. Academically, she was engaged and challenged; and teachers took an active interest in students. Socially, there were many groups to join.
Suzanne participated in Varsity and intramural sports as well as the Tau Phi Gamma club. Fittingly, one of her strongest memories from high school is of George Dennett. When Mr. Dennett was the umpire and Suzanne was a sophomore given the opportunity to be the starting pitcher for a Varsity softball game. “Things were not going well for me in what was a particularly long inning. There was a pop up fly between home plate and the mound. I called it but my catcher did not hear me and we crashed into one another. I was shaken, frustrated and fighting back hot tears when Mr. Dennett appeared. He gave me a hand, asked if I was okay and then patted me on the back, smiled and said, ‘Shake it off Miss Power. You’re okay. Remember you have a team behind you too. Just pitch.’ I never forgot his words and the quiet and gentle confidence he gave me that afternoon. In life, I’ve encountered both loss and failure, but the lessons we learn when we are kids stay with us for a lifetime giving us courage and grit. Thanks to Mr. Dennett, I just keep pitching.”
Suzanne earned both her B.A. and M.Ed. from Boston College and did Post Graduate Studies in Higher Education at Boston College and Northeastern University. She has had many highlights throughout her distinguished career, including the following from her 11 years as principal at the Eliot Elementary School: overseeing the opening of a new building in 2004; the addition of new technologies in classrooms; and a rise in the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System performance at Eliot, Needham’s most economically and racially diverse school. Suzanne has received numerous awards including the Superintendents Service Award (she was a repeat recipient) and the William Powers Award for Administrative Excellence. A career highlight, for Suzanne was at the last assembly at Eliot when the kindergarten dedicated the last song, “The Rainbow Connection” to her then started singing. As the song progressed, each grade level rose to sing. “By the end every child was looking at me with tears streaming down my face. That was by far and away the most meaningful award I ever received.”
There are two messages that Suzanne would like to impart to students, both of which have served her well personally and professionally. The first message is a quote from John F. Kennedy: “Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.” She adapted this quote to “Dare to Fail” that she posted in her classroom. This advice was almost a license for the children in her classroom to feel they were safe to make mistakes. The second message “is to always remember that you can get a whole lot done in this world if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Suzanne thinks that kids are much better at knowing the intrinsic value in this ethos statement.
Suzanne lives in Dover, MA and has two children, Harry and Daniel.