Sue Matthias

Sue Matthias’ career didn’t end with the fanfare it deserved. There was no celebratory retirement party or cheerful sendoff. Rather, her final and 40th year in the classroom was unceremoniously cut short in the wake of a global pandemic. But true to form, Sue doesn’t lament how her career came to an end; instead, she celebrates her career as a whole. This is just who Sue is, a natural optimist with a persistent spirit that has defined her career.

 

Sue always wanted to be a teacher, but after heeding some misguided, albeit well-intentioned advice, she enrolled in business and accounting classes during her first semester at St. Joseph’s University. Quite quickly, however, Sue realized that business wasn’t for her, and she transitioned into the school of education. At the time, education courses were only offered at night at St. Joe’s. Undeterred, she worked during the day and took classes at night, ultimately graduating with her teaching degree in the spring of 1980. Three years later, she obtained her master’s degree from West Chester University.

 

For the first 28 years of her career, Sue largely taught at parochial and private schools. While she was always happy to be teaching, she desired to teach in a public school. In 2008, Sue was hired as a seventh-grade math teacher at Kennett Middle School. As she describes it, it was her “dream job.” For the next 12 years, Sue committed herself to excellence. She cultivated lasting relationships with her students and colleagues and pushed herself to become the best teacher she possibly could. In the last quarter of her career, Sue didn’t allow complacency to take over; instead, Sue remained as committed as ever. And it paid off.

 

In 2019, her 39th year of teaching, Sue was awarded the National Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. It’s an astonishing achievement, not just because it brought acclaim to a career educator, but because it’s emblematic of the tenacity that has defined her career. For 40 years, Sue pushed her students to achieve at the highest levels, encouraged them to believe in their abilities and to dig deeper when the going got tough. It’s a point she embedded into a story that was bound to transcend the classroom.

 

In 2018, Sue published a children’s book, Spell-Bound Puddles, about a young penguin with a natural tenacity that overcomes self-doubt to ultimately find success. The book is an enduring children’s tale, but it’s also a curious foil for her own career arc. Sue’s story is a testament to her unrelenting nature and her desire to become a better teacher every year. She has an infectious spirit, an incredible positivity, and most assuredly, a tenacity that is unmatched. Just like her character, Puddles, Sue’s tenacity clearly paid off. She has enjoyed a fulfilling career that not only influenced her students but also her children. Both of her daughters are teachers and have extended her legacy one generation more. Now that’s something worthy of celebration. Today and every day we’re thankful to celebrate the impact of Sue Matthias. Happy Women’s History Month!