BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Frankville, population 24, is a place where children delight in reading, learning and exploring – guided by teacher and unofficial mayor, Susan Frank.
A sign at the entrance to her second-grade Monclova Primary School classroom shows a quote from Dr. Seuss’s book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
“You’re off to great places. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, so … get on your way!”
Now it’s Frank who is on her way – maybe not to mountains, but moving to Mansfield, learning to play pickleball and planning a future trip to Italy – as she’s set to retire after 23 years with Anthony Wayne Local Schools.
“This is bittersweet. I love my job. It will be hard to leave the people – they’re like my family,” she said. “And I’ll miss the area. We’ve been here since 1999.”
An Arkansas native, Frank initially planned to become a physical education teacher until a summer job leading school-age youths at a child care center changed her plans to focusing on elementary education. She met her husband Dave, a Mansfield native, when Dana Corporation brought him to her home state. As they started a family, Dave’s job took them to three different towns in a seven-year period, so holding down a teaching job was out of the question. Instead, she focused on their sons, Michael and Nicholas, but when the family moved to Monclova Township in 1999, she settled in.
“My first job in the building was as treasurer for MAPS,” she said of the Monclova Area Parents group that raises funds for school and classroom projects.
Soon, Frank was filling long-term, substitute teaching jobs before taking on a part-time job as a reading intervention teacher. In 2004, she was hired as a third-grade teacher; then, in 2014, as a second-grade teacher.
“This is a very fun age,” she said. “They’re pretty independent. They still love school and are excited about learning, and it’s amazing to see how much they grow from the beginning of the school year to now,” she said.
When children arrive to second grade, their reading levels can vary widely– from a kindergarten level to one student who is reading at a ninth-grade level. Dividing the classroom into four literacy centers, she’s able to focus instruction on each student.
Dr. Seuss books are a vital part of the classroom, especially at the beginning of the year, because of the simplicity, fun and rhyming nature of Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham and Horton Hears a Who.
“Dr. Seuss is a classic,” Frank said. “It’s the foundation of reading at the start of the year.”
While the students choose their own reading material from the hundreds of books in the classroom and the library, they also love hearing their teacher read aloud, such as the Beverly Cleary Ramona Quimby series.
Just as her students are taking Dr. Seuss’ advice to venture forth, Frank has, too, during her career. She finished her master’s degree in education and curriculum from Lourdes University, and she wholeheartedly embraced a new way of teaching during the pandemic.
“I’m so glad I worked through COVID,” she said. “As an older teacher, I had to figure out how to videotape myself and download it on YouTube. That benefited me. My children were impressed with how good I am on a computer. I was very nervous at first, but I had the attitude of ‘I’m still learning.’”
During her tenure with Monclova Primary, she’s made numerous friends with other teachers, including the soon-to-retire high school math teacher Carolyn Vogtsberger and middle school science teacher Jim Chipka. Monclova has a social committee that provides opportunities for socializing and volunteering with other teachers. Frank has served as its chair for 12 years.
“We’ve gotten together for dinner in one another’s homes, participated in fundraisers for current and former students, and served in soup kitchens,” Frank said. “Before COVID, we would get on a bus right before Christmas and drive around to different neighborhoods and get out and sing to students.”
While she will miss her fellow teachers and a reason to buy children’s books, Frank is looking forward to a new adventure.
Pointing to a poster next to her door, she noted a second Dr. Seuss quote that sums it up: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”