Lower School Faculty Member, 2003–2018
I met Susan Wheelwright in the late 1980s, when we both worked at Fayerweather Street School. Arriving at Milton in the fall of 2003, Susan already had a long and distinguished career. Beginning what would be 15 years as part of the dynamic third-grade duo that included Jane McGuinness, Susan’s kind, caring and straightforward nature was immediately a perfect fit for our community.
Susan has shared her steady and gentle spirit with students and faculty alike. Likened by a colleague to a “child whisperer,” she spoke to children in such a warm, quiet way, she could reach any child and bring out the best in each of them. Her classroom was a whimsical place where kids found and created magic.
To fully appreciate the immeasurable gifts that Susan Wheelwright bestowed on her students, one only had to walk into her room and study the walls and surfaces. They were filled with found objects from nature: shells, nests, hives and rocks, along with guidebooks, knick-knacks and amazing works of student art. Susan’s classroom was carefully orchestrated for her students, to maximize their engagement. Her ability to notice the interests of her students is legendary. It was magical for both child and teacher, and the connection grew and strengthened so that the bond between them solidified. Susan’s students spent the year knowing that each day would bring engaging activities filled with purpose and possibility.
Susan knows children’s literature, and which books would elicit passionate discussions. Their imaginations ignited, her students crafted beautifully written reflections they loved to share with classmates. She masterfully guided students to a deeper understanding of immigration as she read carefully selected immigration stories and led the students into steerage — in character — and onto a “ship” that sailed in the early 20th century.
Susan’s love of poetry, ice skating and monarch butterflies were all hallmarks of the third grade. Every year, the love of the natural world that Susan infused into the third grade ended with the excitement of a culminating trip to the Farm School.
Shepherding third-grade students, and guiding us all with her warmth and humanity, Susan leaves behind a legacy that is long-lasting. We will miss Susan, and we wish her well in this new chapter of her life, as she spends more time with her daughters and her grandson, and gets to do some exploration of her own.
By Gary Shrager
Lower School Dean and Science Faculty Member