Science teacher inspires ‘growing’ minds

District teacher of the year nominee is known for her gardening passion.


Selina White

Science teacher, Susan Matthews, leads students in an experiment. She was named a finalist for district teacher of the year on Aug. 26, 2022.

Richland Northeast teacher of the year Susan Mathews was surprised with a district finalist nomination, on Friday August 26. Mathews is a physics and chemistry teacher at RNE who advises the science national honor society and rocketry club. Learn more about RNE’s teacher of the year below.

“I felt like a star, it was so gratifying, your district supervisors have come for you and they’re standing up and they’re cheering and giving you gifts,” Mathews said. “It is a very overwhelming feeling, you want to embrace that moment and you want to hang on to all the good things, the right things that you did.”

What sparked your interest in science?

Mathews reflects on having a deep love for science since a young age and shares how it appears in her life – even outside of the classroom.

“I’m always interested in experimenting, right from the beginning, right from my school age. I’m a very curious person… in my school days when we had labs I would lighten up. Science always allowed me to find answers. It allowed me to be curious. It allowed me to understand a lot of things and apply it. Even in cooking, like how can I make my dish clean, when do I know to stop using water, you know, it’s fascinating for me to see. There’s a precision to everything. I’m always intrigued by how the small things and the big things start connecting.”

Mathews adds, “I could love any subject because I love to learn, and I love to explain the things I understand.”

Why is it important for students to learn science?

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“Every workforce needs science, there is no workforce that doesn’t utilize science. We need a lot more medical personalities, a lot more engineering personalities, a lot more computer personalities. America has to globally compete – most of the medical professionals, computer professionals, the engineering professionals are being employed from different countries. We do not have staff to fill in those shoes because we ,as a country, are not producing students with enough caliber to compete for those positions.”

In this audio, she reflects on the state of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What are your passions outside of the classroom?

“I love to garden, and I’ve transformed my garden in such a way that it produces flowers all around the year. To me, gardening is a therapy. It’s a story. It’s a teacher. All of these beautiful flowers are like my kids, they need tenderness, and they need care. Sometimes when all of these flowers are blooming, and blossoming, and growing, and something flops, but you can see the other flowers hold it up. I feel it’s teaching that we are all in this world to blossom and become the most beautiful, but we cannot do it alone because there are people to hold us up.”

“I’m an outdoors person. I love being outdoors. I spend a lot of time playing pickleball, which is one way I interact with the community other than school. I play every Saturday and sometimes multiple times a week after school. I like competition and games, but I also play friendly.”

“Coming to America, I wanted to learn the culture, so I was really interested in line dancing. So I’ve been enrolled in line dancing courses for the last 5 years. We go to line dancing workshops in different states, and we have people coming from all over the country, and we stay in hotels nearby, and we dance from morning to night.”

What was your experience immigrating to the US?

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In the audio to the left, Mathews reflects on the significance of the support system she found in the US.
“I was very fortunate that God placed me into a very beautiful place,” Mathews said.





How did it feel to be named Richland Northeast’s teacher of the year?

“When I was selected as teacher of the year last year, I felt that God had blessed me at that point when I just needed a pat on the back, so I could continue to work hard for my students. I believe when you need something, God will always give you the push. It’s important to me that I treat these kids as mine. It’s important for them to know that I care for what they’re going to be, and I care for them to become the best.”

Though Mathews was not named district teacher of the year, she is extremely grateful to be recognized, even if just on a school level.

“It feels good to be recognized, it feels good to be appreciated… I felt that all my hard work that I put in for so many years, all my journey, had paid off. If I were to tell the story to someone when I retire, I can say ‘I was the teacher of the year’.”