TCTA leadership gathered in Austin on June 22 for a summer board meeting and the installation of 2017-18 Executive Board members.TCTA leadership gathered in Austin on June 22 for a summer board meeting and the installation of 2017-18 Executive Board members. From left are Cherie Bales, president-elect; Donna Corbin, who is now a retired member; Cristal Isaacks, Teacher Personal Services Committee chair; Suzanne Garcia McCall, president; Twila Read, Legislation Committee chair; and Sherry Miller, Curriculum & Instruction Committee chair. 
 

Suzanne Garcia McCall brings her passion
and enthusiasm to the classroom

This article appeared in the 2017 summer issue of The Classroom Teacher.

A lifelong love of learning made teaching a natural fit for Suzanne Garcia McCall, TCTA’s 2017-18 state president.

“I decided I wanted to be a teacher at a very young age,” she says. “I remember wrangling my two younger sisters and insisting they work for me as I taught out of an encyclopedia. I would put a cup of hot water at my desk and a pencil behind my ear. I loved reading and learning.”

Growing up on a farm outside Slaton, McCall also loved exploring the outdoors, working alongside her parents and visiting her grandparents who lived nearby. Her mother worked as a school paraprofessional and served as the head education coordinator at her church, giving McCall an opportunity to assist from an early age. She remembers reading out of encyclopedias as a child, and said, “As a teenager, my most prized possession was my subscription to Astronomy Today.”

Knowing that, it’s no surprise the self-proclaimed nerd would end up in a classroom. Her career began at Stephen F. Austin Intermediate, the same school she attended as a child, making it the perfect place to begin teaching others to love learning as much as she does.

These days, her enthusiasm for the job spills out with smiles, hugs and fist bumps as she greets students at Cathelene Thomas Elementary School in Slaton. McCall loves how excited her students get about learning, but it’s the relationships she forms with them through conversations in the hallway or at recess that she cherishes most. 

“Students want to share everything. I love it when students tell me about their day or the big softball game. These conversations are so important to me,” she says. “I know I am a constant in their life. I don’t take that for granted. I learned very early that if they know you love them, they will do anything for you.”

In her 20 years of teaching, McCall has bounced between third and fourth grade, sometimes teaching in self-contained classrooms. She’s spent the past five years teaching science, and the past three years serving as a mentor teacher. This year, she’ll become a master teacher, working alongside third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers and leading clusters of specialized professional development.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” McCall takes this to heart. “My goal as a teacher is to make my love for my subject material evident in my teaching. I want to always create engaging lessons that bring learning to life and leave my students sitting at the edge of their seats,” she says. “I also want my love for my profession to be evident. I want students to know that teaching is a noble profession. I want my students, colleagues and parents to know just how proud I am to be a teacher in Slaton.”

She’s also proud to be a member of TCTA, joining after her first year of teaching after urging by her mentor, Jeanette Moore, who served on TCTA’s Executive Board between 1995 and 1999. McCall said she sat in awe, amazed by the number of teachers gathered in one room at the first TCTA state convention she attended. Visits by TCTA presidents in Slaton also left an impression. “One of my favorite memories was when Sue Barker (1998-99 state president from Whitesboro) gave our school the book ‘Holes.’ She read a chapter to our kids and spent the day talking to teachers. It was awesome.”

She’s remained an active member for the past 19 years because “TCTA truly works for the good of all teachers.” She says being part of an association “gives us a voice. It supplies teachers with information that empowers them at the local level and state level. We can depend on lawyers who are a phone call away. TCTA’s lobby team isn’t afraid to fight the battles that make things fair for all teachers.”

A current fight is the lack of appropriate funding for education, which McCall says trickles down to the classroom. “I work in a small rural district outside of Lubbock. It has been so hard to keep our best teachers. Slaton, and other small rural districts, cannot pay teachers what large urban districts can, so we lose some of our very best year after year. Large districts suffer as well. Most new teachers stay in the field for a very short time. They find out very early that it is very hard work and the pay just does not match.”

McCall says her time in TCTA has been a learning experience, from her service on the Executive Board as chair of the Curriculum & Instruction Committee to six years serving on the State Board of Educator Certification. TCTA has helped McCall learn to be a leader and prepared her for the year ahead as president. 

TCTA also helped shape her family. Suzanne met her husband, Damon, during the 2007 convention. “We were from the same area, just 15 miles apart, but our paths had not crossed until that breezy day in Austin. Fate brought us together on a bus on the way to the Capitol.”

They’ve been married for nine years and have two sons, Grant, 9, and Mason, 6. Damon’s daughter Taylor, 14, completes the family, which spends lots of time together. “Damon is a great cook and grill master, so we spend time preparing our favorite meals. That is my most favorite time — cooking and eating as a family.”

The McCalls also enjoy going to the movies, watching TV and learning together. They can spend hours in Barnes & Noble, McCall says, adding, “I am blessed to have a family that loves to read.”

She also feels blessed to serve as TCTA’s president for the next year. “I knew it was the perfect way to represent the profession I really love. I enjoy being able to work with TCTA staff and getting the opportunity to speak with teachers from across the state.”

McCall looks forward to meeting more members and serving her colleagues in any way she can. “My goal is to empower the younger generation of teachers to serve and lead. It is my goal to demonstrate how powerful their voice can be. And when it is united with 50,000 other teachers across the state, imagine all the things we can accomplish. Wow! I want my message to be simple. Use your voice. Be heard. It is up to us to change the perception of public education and remind everyone how great our profession is.”