What Do People Say About Us?
Throughout her 30 years of experience as an educator, Sue Gonyea's students, their parents and her colleagues have all contributed time, energy, creative and loving hearts to do good things and take action to make our world a better place. Here are some of the things they have to say...
Sue believes in the idea of empowerment and helping people step up and reach their full potential. She has great faith in humanity and is forever reaching out to folks less fortunate than herself; she gives them guidance, support and skills to develop their own talents and abilities. Sue believes it is important to help people help themselves. One example of her philanthropy is a foundation she created that gives money to college students in need of finances to continue their education. I have often heard her say this is a way of helping them develop the philosophy of “paying it forward”. I personally know of two students that were recipients of this money and it literally changed their life.
We had the fortune of crossing paths with Sue when our daughter was in Sue’s classroom. Our daughter was struggling to find her place socially and academically. After two years in Sue’s classroom, our daughter came away with a strong sense of confidence, some new and long-lasting friendships, and the beginning of an upward trend in grades. Sue formed an afterschool group called Community Leadership aimed at engaging students in service to their community by planning and running a wide range of volunteer projects. Naturally our daughters felt that their parents should also have an opportunity to take part in this rewarding work, so soon we too were helping to make and serve dinners at homeless shelters and collecting coats and organizing a winter coat drive. Without even trying, Sue sparked a passion for social good in our kids, our family, and friends.
It isn’t very often that one gets the opportunity to recommend someone that I truly believe would be a game-changer. Sue Gonyea is that rare person. I know first hand the impact she’s had on not just our daughter’s education and outlook on the world, other students fortunate enough to be under her tutelage – but my own. And Sue makes an impact beyond the classroom. Our daughter has grown leaps and bounds directly from her relationship with Sue, by providing her a way to use her classroom learning, her creative skills, along with who she is as a person to become a better citizen of the world. Her involvement in Sue’s Community Leadership program continues to be a source of inspiration, and learning and exposure to the wider world – and to empower her to make her mark in it. To embrace the challenges the world offers rather than being overwhelmed by them.
I have known Ms. Sue since she was my daughter's 4th grade teacher. During that year, I would volunteer in the classroom and was fortunate enough to observe her positive effects on her students. Since 2013, I also volunteer during the monthly “Do Good Things”/Community Leadership Group she established at Armatage. Ms. Sue's has a strong sense of community and helping her students reflect on their impact on the community around them. The community leadership group continues as her former students have moved on to middle school and high school. This student group establishes monthly volunteer goals such as fundraising for their school’s Little Library, collect and distribute winter coats for homeless, serve dinner at area shelter, pack toiletry bags for teen shelters, play games with residents at a nursing home, and gather items needed at the Animal Humane Society.
At a young age, I realized that Sue was different from most people as she had an immense amount of empathy driving her to help others. As I reflect back on my time with Sue in the classroom, I think about all of the skills she taught me that helped me cultivate my coat drive, Cozy Coats, and how I would learn to settle into my natural role as a leader. Prior to entering her class, I had little self confidence or internal drive. Sue constantly pushed me out of my comfort zone by showing me everyday what it meant to be a leader. I am forever grateful that I was placed into her class in elementary school because she changed my perspective on the world and gave me the resources to be a better person.