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Susan Braden tapped by Child Welfare Board as ‘Volunteer of the Year’

By Iris Campbell
Public Information Officer

De Zavala Elementary teacher Suzanne Braden received the Hays County Child Protective Board’s Heroes in Education Award for “extraordinary outreach and support to Hays County students in foster care.”
The Hays County Child Protective Board met on the De Zavala campus to recognize Braden for her services.  June Hankins gave the following honorarium:
“Hays County Child Protective Board is proud to present to Suzanne Braden the 2014 Heroes in Education award. The board works to improve the lives of Hays county children, particularly those who have been found abused or neglected.  Board members are appointed by county commissioners and work with the Department of Child Protective Services.   Information about the high percentage of children in care with major problems succeeding in school, failure to graduate with their age group and success with job training and/or college are disturbing.
“Because of this enormous need, the Board wants to recognize teachers for their role on the front lines contributing to success of all children with special needs, and specifically abused and neglected children.
“This year, professionals in Hays County schools that have foster and special needs children led us to a truly outstanding teacher who has reached out to Hays County children. SMCISD has been fortunate to have Suzanne Braden in their most challenging teaching positions for 23 years.  Before San Marcos Suzanne Braden taught in the Pharr-San Juan South Texas High School and in Raymondville teaching emotionally disturbed and behaviorally disordered children and teenagers. She also spent two years in Austin ISD as a counselor and special education teacher.
“Counselors, teaching colleagues, principals and administrators who know Suzanne and have seen her work use much of the same language to describe her teaching: selfless, fierce advocate for her families and children, awesome, kids come first, caring, compassionate, sometimes picks up where parents leave off.”
Julia Ramsey New, who directs Greater San Marcos Youth Council, the San Marcos children’s shelter, describes Suzanne’s work with a deaf child who stayed at the shelter: “Ms. Braden personifies the superior, exceptionally dedicated teacher who has the ability to reach all children in a genuinely warm and engaging manner. She is committed to her craft and goes the extra mile to reach children who find themselves in extremely difficult situations, as well as those who have learning challenges. After having worked an intense 40+ hour week in the public school system, during weekends Ms. Braden volunteered her time in the shelter, to provide support and continuity to our deaf child, while teaching adult care givers and the other children simple signs so everyone could communicate better. She often brought pizza for all the children, played games and interacted well with the children of different ages in residence at the time. Our deaf child’s face lit up like a Christmas tree when Ms. Braden arrived, throwing her arms out to give a hug as the young girl ran to greet her beloved teacher. Teachers like Ms. Braden make the lives of foster children a little brighter and certainly more bearable as they prove each day that those they have been called to teach are worthy of everything good life has to offer.”
When another of Braden’s students, recently reunited with his parents, had surgery in San Antonio, she drove the 45 miles after her long and intense day of teaching, every day, to read to the child, bring lessons from school, and help him communicate with hospital staff. She was a reassuring advocate for the child, in a scary setting. She helped teach the parents, who were Spanish speaking and did not sign, to communicate with their child.  The father was touched when he saw his child and Mrs. Braden communicating, and with tears in his eyes said that he never knew the child had any thoughts before.
De Zavala counselor Cindy Mosier says of  Braden: “She is the most compassionate teacher I have ever known.  You can rest assured if one of her children has a need, she will see that the need is met.  She does the extras like washing their clothing or hair, providing basic needs like running water or toothbrushes, or shoes, or listening with a sympathetic ear. She treats the children like one of her own and challenges them to be the best they can be.”

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