Albert reminisces on 18 years of teaching

Matthew Chupack and Maya Fridman

English teacher Susan Albert during a video conference via Google Meets on May 5. Albert is finishing her last year teaching at Glenbrook North after 18 years. Photo by Maya Fridman

When English teacher Susan Albert was studying the novel “Beloved” with her class, some students found the text very difficult and complained. However, one student went out of her way to tell Albert that she finally began to understand and enjoy the book, and this became one of Albert’s most memorable moments as a teacher. 

“One day she just came into the class and came up to me, and looked at me and said, ‘This is great,’” said Albert in a video conference. “She was getting it and … had gotten far enough into the book to really start to see what had been going on. That, I’ll always remember.”

Before Albert became a teacher, she worked as an editor for the University of Illinois at Chicago alongside sociologists on their projects, articles and reports, she said. But, she wanted to be more absorbed in literature.

Editing wasn’t really what I loved, and I do love thinking and discussing ideas, and I wanted to see if I liked teaching, where you think and discuss ideas a lot,” Albert said.

She was very excited when she got hired at Glenbrook North, but her first day teaching was pretty overwhelming as she taught three different levels during her first year, Albert said. 

Her “dearest” books to teach were “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Beloved,” Albert said.

“They’re amazing,” said Albert. “They’re amazing pieces of literature and challenging, and they bring a lot to all of us.”

During her 18 years teaching at GBN, she hopes she has made an impact on her students and has motivated them to become better learners, Albert said.

“I hope I’ve taught them how to be courageous in their thinking, to push themselves, not to be lazy,” Albert said. 

Albert was in denial for a long time once she found out she would not be finishing her last few months as a teacher in school, and kept thinking that it would re-open, she said.

“I try not to think about the fact [we are not going back],” said Albert. “I just can’t get my mind around it really. It’s really sad. This is a really horrible way to finish your career.”

Family circumstances influenced her decision to retire, Albert said.  

“I just had my first grandchild,” said Albert. “She’ll be one in June. My husband is retired, so it was just time. We’ve been talking about [my retirement] for a long time, so it wasn’t a surprise.”

After retirement, she planned on traveling and had a trip scheduled for September, but due to COVID-19, those plans will likely fall through, said Albert. She now plans on spending more time with her granddaughter once things improve.

After Albert retires, she will miss being in the classroom, as there is no substitute for in-person education, Albert said.  

“It’s hard right now to think back at some of the things,” said Albert. “I know when things have calmed down … I’ll be able to remember different events. 

The times I’ll remember are the times laughing with my students, getting excited about things.”