2019 Teacher of the Year:
Susan Converse is a former journalist turned special education teacher. Converse has worked in the field of education for the past 23 years. She began her teaching career in 1995 and has taught at the elementary, middle school and high school level. She has served students with emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities and autism. Converse is certified as a reading specialist and served as an administrator for nine years before returning to the classroom in 2013.
Converse currently works with high school students with intellectual disabilities and autism and assists them with their transition needs as they prepare to exit the school system. Converse opened a coffee shop at her high school in 2016, which serves as a self-supported vocational training center for her students. The Tiger Den Coffee Shop has served as a stepping stone to competitive employment for her students and several of her students are now employed in the community.
The support and success of the coffee shop has also allowed her students to support individuals in need within the school district and community. Over the past two years, the Tiger Den Coffee Shop has donated more than $10,000 to local families in need and has supported community initiatives which promote inclusion of individuals with disabilities. Converse hopes to expand this vocational initiative by opening a similar establishment in the community in the near future.
Converse holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Masters in Educational Administration from Southern Illinois University - Edwardsville.