Behind the Apple — Suzanne Craw, Fort Dorchester Elementary School
Suzanne Craw, 54, of Ridgeville is a library media specialist. In bygone days, this might have been called a school librarian. But Craw is far more than a librarian. She is a teacher, an entertainer, a book specialist, a media specialist and a daily surprise for students at Fort Dorchester Elementary School.
However, it took her a long time and myriad careers to get here. “I started this career accidentally, on purpose,” she laughs and begins her story.
After growing up in Kentucky, she joined the Air Force and was stationed in Biloxi, Miss. where she met her husband. Then he got orders that sent him to England where they lived on the east coast.
Her husband is from the Charleston area so when they returned, she decided to get out of the Air Force and go into the Reserves. While serving in the reserves she earned three degrees – two Associates degrees, one from Trident in Business Management and one from the Community College of the Air Force in Power Plant Management. She also earned a Bachelor of Science from the College of Charleston in Business Management – and then she decided to apply to officer training school. She got in and was stationed in Charleston where she gave birth to a son. Just as her husband was getting ready to retire from the armed services, she got new orders stationing her in San Antonio, Texas. So off she went.
“I built a house there and eventually they [husband and son] joined me,” she says, “we rented out our Ridgeville farm.”
But after a year and a half, she decided once again to get out and they all came back to the Lowcountry. Her husband went to school and she worked as a bookkeeper and office manager for a Charleston law firm.
It was a long commute though and “it got really old, so I ended up getting a job as an in-store advertising manager.”
She found herself envious of her boss. “She would take a few hours and volunteer at her child’s school and I realized I wanted to be more involved in my son’s school — Beech Hill Elementary School — so I went ‘cold turkey’ to part time and began volunteering at Beech Hill.”
However, she ended up volunteering six hours a day in the media center and realized she could do the media specialist’s job just as well. So she went back to school and earned yet another degree – a Master’s in Library Information Science from USC.
At 44, armed with her MLS, she went seeking a job. There were no openings in Dorchester District 2 so her first job was in Colleton County.
Finally, in 2002, she landed a job at the brand new elementary school – Fort Dorchester.
In addition to being responsible for all the books in the school library – there have been 28,234 circulated in a four-month period – she also teaches students.
She teaches information literacy – how to find, evaluate, use and give credit for information…how to research. She collaborates with classroom teachers and teaches younger students about authors and illustrators.
Her library is fun. Filled with stuffed animals that look just like the illustrations in their accompanying books, there are reading competitions, research competitions and each lesson is taught with props, sometimes costumes, often special effects.
“The students never know what to expect when they come in,” she laughs.
“I bring my life into my lessons,” she explains, noting a White Table set up with a single rose, a single place setting with a plate with salt and lemons, a glass, a candle and an empty chair, tilted against the table. The White Table represents all the missing and dead from the Vietnam era and pays homage to all military who have given their lives.
On top of a bookcase are her military pins and patches, a book about the White Table and books about the military.
In addition to her media center work, which she says could not happen without her media assistant Mary Horick who has been her partner since day one, she runs book fairs, serves on the leadership committee, team leader meetings and is a student club sponsor.
She has been an Honor Teacher three times and while in Colleton was Rookie Teacher of the Year and PTA Teacher of the Year. She is also National Board certified.
Her worst experience teaching, she says, is knowing she doesn’t have enough time to spend with each child individually…”I wish I had more time for each child.”
Her best experiences are when somebody comes in and says “Mrs. Craw, guess what! That was the best book!”
“Or the child who ran all the way across Walmart to hug me,” she laughs.
Her professional goal? “When I retire I want to be an organic gardener!”
When not in school, she and her husband George – a valve technician for nuclear power plants nationwide – share their farm with their dog Trig who is half Rocky Mountain Cur and half Plott; two cats – Pretty Girl who lives in the barn and Bits who lives with Trig, and seven hunting dogs.
When she isn’t playing with the dogs, she says, “What do you think? I read.”
She enjoys gardening and hates cooking but shares the chore with her husband.
She has taught Sunday School, Children’s church and Vacation Bible School classes over the years. Whatever job or committee her husband was involved in, she says, “I was too!”
They are parents to Josh, 25 and daughter-in-law Sarah-Elizabeth.
“I used to cross stitch, crochet and sew,” she laments, “when I had time. She also used to accompany her husband hunting or help him restore cars.
Although they have raised cows, goats, chickens and rabbits on the farm, they currently raise trees.
Her life goal, she says, is to “make the journey count and have a positive impact on students.”