When Susan Linerode’s daughter was in kindergarten, she was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome. Linerode, a well-respected business professional at the time, was thrown headfirst into a world of classroom meetings, confusing jargon and special education.
“I saw how hard it is for kids who are different or have a disadvantage to be successful,” Linerode said. “I wanted to do something to help other kids who were seen as ‘different’ or those who people judged negatively.”
This inspired Linerode to want to help other children. She worked to raise $125,000 to build a skate park in Syracuse, where she witnessed how the children she interacted with were easily judged for academic struggles or behavioral problems.
“I saw how people just gave up on them,” she said. “When I got to know them, I became a homework helper, disciplinarian and cheerleader for their success.”
It was that role that triggered Linerode to leave the business world and a six-figure salary in favor of pursuing a career in education. In January 2011, she enrolled in SUNY Oswego’s Master of Science in Teaching program leading to Initial Teacher Certification, to be a voice for children like the ones she knew.
More Than an Educator
In the program, Linerode was introduced to the idea of teaching for social justice, a concept at the core of SUNY Oswego’s School of Education. That idea, tied with her field placements in the Syracuse City School District, changed her outlook on teaching.
“When I started, I assumed I would get a job in my district because I knew people who worked there,” she said. “I realized I needed to be in an urban district…my philosophy is to be the person to help kids.”
“It’s great because kids need strong relationships with teachers,” she said. “When you’re [a teacher], you always have to think that your job is not only to educate your students, but to be that rock when everything else is chaos.”
A Rewarding Career
Southside Academy Charter School is one of two charter schools in Syracuse. Charter schools are state-approved public schools that are managed privately and offer another opportunity for recent graduates to enter the school district.
For Linerode, the opportunities at Southside Academy Charter School allowed her students to thrive and gave her the rewarding career she was looking for - her students perform well above average.
At Southside Academy Charter School, where the overwhelming majority of students receive free lunch and live along the poverty line, Linerode said she is grateful to have the background in education she earned at SUNY Oswego.
“You can’t avoid thinking about social justice – I’m doing lessons with my kids that [others] may be afraid to have conversations about,” she said. “These kids are old enough to know what the world is like and they need to know what to do to overcome any obstacle they will face.”
The most rewarding aspect of her new career, according to Linerode, is being a voice for the her students and watching them succeed. Her own daughter, the catalyst for Linerode’s career change, is now a tenth grade honors student at Mexico High School.
“I’m so proud to be an advocate for my daughter, but if kids don’t have someone whose an advocate for them then they are the ones to suffer,” Linerode said. “Every student in my class has someone who loves them and if I can’t stand and help then when they don’t know what to do, I’m not doing my job.”