Orange East Supervisory Union
Pipeline mechanic, milk tester, organic gardener, waitress, ski patrol, cyclist, business owner, environmental safety activist and public health nurse are all positions Susie Tann has embraced during her lifetime. And last summer (after multiple years serving as the Bradford Elementary School’s nurse) Tann retired from that position, ready to explore new opportunities.
Suffice to say, it had been a year filled with personal challenges that included a surgery to remove a rare form of cancer, and the closure of the school building in mid-March due to the pandemic. “I believe that when one door closes another one opens,” Tann said when I talked with her on a toasty warm October afternoon at one of Bradford Elementary School’s picnic tables. “I’m not really keen about the word “retirement” so I am calling this next phase of my life “adventurement.” Shortly after resigning, she was offered the position of COVID-19 Prevention Coordinator for the Orange East Supervisory Union and she readily accepted.
Tann’s former colleagues have had plenty to say about why she is a VEHI PATH Thriving Rock Star. ”Susie always inspired students and adults in our school,” said Polly Bonanno. “She modeled a kind and caring attitude, reaching out personally to students and staff. She stayed on top of newer health initiatives, leading us to become informed healthy individuals. When personal tragedies struck, she was not afraid to go above and beyond to get the right kind of help into one’s hands. Many times, her humor was the best part of my day.”
“Susie is full of enthusiasm and positive energy,” said Jessica Loeffler.” She is creative and willing to go the extra mile to support her staff.” Christine Rogers, another colleague, said, “Susie brought trauma-informed professional development to our school, provided the basic needs to students to help them be ready to learn and provided a haven in her office. Her compassion and empathy are unmeasurable and her commitment to the well-being of children is unsurpassed. She inspired me to look at the whole child and face life challenges with the best of attitudes and a fighting spirit.”
“Susie exemplified healthy living with a commitment to outdoor activity, eating nutritious foods, supporting students physically and emotionally and dealing with the ups and downs of life with grace, a positive attitude and a wonderful sense of humor,” said Kate Paxton. Cathy Roberts, another colleague, added that Susie was the PATH Wellness Coordinator for many years, keeping them on track with her zest for life and a healthy lifestyle.
In recent years, Tann and her husband have been diagnosed with different rare forms of cancer. “When I learned of my diagnosis and the need for surgery, I was determined to have the best body I could muster in 30 days,” Tann said. “I worked hard to reduce my weight and my cholesterol, dedicating a part of every day to fitness. I researched every possible treatment option thoroughly so I could have quality conversations with health care providers. I was determined to go into surgery with a very positive attitude.”
Tann teared up when I asked her about her decision to make a change. “I miss everyone here,” she said. “I tried to always be an inspiration to the staff.” Tann enrolled in a graduate course entitled Self-Care for Teachers. “It helped give me so much more knowledge about nutrition, exercise, stress management and the habit loop that I can now share with others,” she said.
Tann is now responsible for taking a lead role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 among students, staff and community members throughout the supervisory union. “In collaboration with Bruce Williams, our Assistant Superintendent, I created a set of guidelines and policies specifically around best practices,” she said. “I field daily questions, help design how faculty can make use of outdoor spaces, provide training on best practices and have participated in statewide tabletop scenarios about how to proceed when someone receives a positive COVID test. I have invited the local health practitioners to work with us as it is vital for our success. “