Longtime teacher honored with drive-by retirement party

By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

The long line of vehicles in front of Susan Morton’s residence would have been evidence enough of the beloved teacher’s relationship with her students, parents and colleagues—if not for all the goodbyes, tears and would-be hugs.

Many of those who were touched by Morton during her 31-year career lined up to wish her well Wednesday evening, May 20, in a surprise drive-by retirement celebration.

“The biggest surprise of my life,” said Morton, who will retire June 1. “Thirty-one years of being around wonderful children and wonderful parents. It’s such a big part of my life, and I’m so grateful, and thank you so much. I just don’t have words to express my appreciation and my thankfulness.”

Morton spent her entire career teaching kindergarten, first at the former Valley Elementary and then at Pelham Oaks.

Jenny Templin, vice president of the Pelham Oaks PTO board, called Morton the epitome of a great teacher.

“Kindergarten teachers—not only are they faced with the challenge of getting the children acclamated, they’re faced with handling the parents as well. Mrs. Morton has that down to a tee,” Templin said. “She is hands-down a godsend. She has a way of calming down any child no matter how upset they are.”

Erin Whidden, a second grade teacher at POES, had worked with Morton since 2008. She said people tend to gravitate to Morton because she is uplifting and encouraging.

“The word that I have for Susan is sure and steady. She is calm all the time. She is just that person that anchors you when you need something,” Whidden said.

POES Principal Chase Holden said Morton loved her students and the community loved her in return.

“We’re just going to severely miss her. She’s a phenomenal teacher, and I think that was evident today by the number of students, parents and teachers that came out to support her and show her love at this event,” he said.

Though overcome with emotion, Morton was straightforward following Wednesday evening’s event—when asked what she is planning to do the first morning of her retirement, she said, “Two cups of coffee.”