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Horace Mann Principal Susan Field to retire after 40 years in education

Elisabeth Slay

After 40 years as an educator and 12 years as principal of Horace Mann Elementary School, Susan Field is retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

According to Field, she has had a passion to work with children for a long time and she was inspired to become an educator by her grandmother.

"Even when I was in high school I really worked well with children whether it be through church or bible school (or) babysitting," Field said. "My grandmother was a high school English teacher."

The educator said she began her career teaching in Norman after receiving her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Oklahoma.

"I did my student teaching at (Madison Elementary School) and then they hired me at that same school...I was there for 10 years and I taught first grade and fourth grade," Field said.

The principal said after teaching at Madison she helped open a new elementary school in Norman called Truman Elementary School.

"I was there for five years and during the time...(I was there) I got a (Masters) degree and certification in reading...and then also went on and got my administrator certificate," Field said.

While she was getting her Masters at OU, Field said she met her husband Jesse who was an elementary administrator in Shawnee.

After they got married and three years of commuting back and forth to Shawnee and Norman, Field said she decided to leave Norman and become a teacher in Shawnee.

"The summer I decided that I wanted to come to Shawnee there were no jobs and finally right at the end of July...There was a job for an eighth grade science teacher," Field said.

Though it was not was she was used to, Field said she made the subject and the classroom her own for a year and ended up staying at Shawnee Middle School for 11 more years as the assistant principal.

After her time at SMS, Field said she was hired as the principal at Horace Mann and she has held the position for the last 12 years of her career.

For the educator the best and most important aspect of being a teacher and a principal is creating bonds with all the children she meets and teaches.

"I think what (has) made me successful and good at what I do is I have a heart for these children and I know no matter what grade I'm dealing with, if they don't know that you have a relationship with them it's not going to work," Field said. "That will gain you the ground you need so that you can teach them and make things better."

Field said she applies this philosophy to how she leads Horace Mann and believes it has been successful because it makes her students enjoy school and want to attend and learn more often.

"At Horace Mann I have always been a leader and I've run it like we're a family because a lot of times we don't have control for what goes on outside of school," Field said. "When they come here I want them to know that they're safe and we're going to take care of them."

For the principal, she said one of the biggest challenges she's faced as an administrator is hiring the right educators for Horace Mann and its students.

"I try to hire the right people that will fit in here (because) that's important," Field said. "You want to say 'would I want my child in that teacher's room.'"

Field explained after she retires June 5 she will miss the daily interactions with students and the constant hugs.

"(I'm going to miss) the kids and seeing them grow up and I'm going to miss my staff because I think I have worked hard to get the right people who had the same vision that I did and the same love for the kids," Field said.

According to friend and former college Marti Wolf, Field has a knack for finding the right people to hire and insures that everyone has what they need.

"She is so involved with the students and the teachers and always looking ahead to see what can be improved and how to involve the parents and everyone," Wolf said.

While she will miss all her students and her colleges, Field said she's looking forward to retirement and she plans to visit even after she's gone.

"I want to travel and come back and send post cards to them and do fun things like that," Field said. "I want to do genealogy when I'm done and all of those things you put off."

Field said she believes the next Horace Mann principal, Jennifer Epperley, will do a wonderful job leading the school and she encourages the new administrator to continue building relationships.

"Deep down these kids have a lot of love and I just want them to get that love back and...I do (think Jennifer can do it) very much so," Field said.

Field said in addition to traveling and genealogy, she's looking forward to spending time with her children, Clark and Courtney and her husband who is also retired.