Friday, February 18, 2011

Ms. Susan Mussard = Determination

This blog was always meant to be about business matters, but a loss has caused me to correlate my professional life with my personal life.
The topic is determination.
One of my recent postings was about a businesswoman on the verge of losing her dream, her last 20 years’ passion and her livelihood. Instead of giving up and walking away, she did some very important things:
1.       She set a resolve to make a change
2.       She took corrective action to affect change
3.       She made personal sacrifice to achieve her goal
4.       She worked VERY HARD and she relied heavily on determination to succeed
In the eve of February 14, 2011 another strong and determined woman with a beautiful soul and an infectious laugh (more like a rolling giggle) passed away in her sleep. Ironically, I had been IMing with her on FB that evening. She said she was having a hard time typing as she was in bed but she would write me an email the next day. I told her that I loved her and I blew her the “online kiss”, MWA. I never received the email the next day as she had passed in her sleep. I’m so glad that I told her that I love her. And, I don’t know what made me IM her on FB that night because I rarely use the feature, but I am so glad that I did.
This wasn’t just ANY woman, she was my sister-in-law Susan Mussard. She was “Aunt Susie” to my daughters. At birth, there were errors on the part of the hospital staff with her mother and it is highly suspected that this is why she was born disabled. The disability was serious. Most parents who have a child like this institutionalize them. Her parents did not. She was treated no differently than any of her other three siblings and she developed a determination that was unstoppable.
Her disability was very visible and very audible and yet, she excelled in K-12 (and yes, she was in a regular public school – not a school for the disabled). She then went on to college and graduated and performed her duties to receive her teaching credential. She suffered through taunts and bullying because of her disability. In college, a man from a country where women are not treated very well, pushed her down a grassy knoll and told her that “people like her were killed at birth because they are a drain on society”. Well, through determination, this courageous woman proved him (and all those who felt similarly but didn’t say it aloud) wrong. She went on to be a teacher. And she didn’t choose teaching children at an accepting age. In my opinion, she chose the worst age of loud mouthed, insecure but show- offy aged children – middle schoolers.
She endured the looks of the students as they entered her classroom on the first day of school. She heard the snide remarks and snickers. And, with determination and the pride to back it up she would give each incoming class the same message. It went something like this:
“I’m fat. I talk funny. I move awkwardly and I walk with difficulty. Yet, I will not be disrespected by any of you in my classroom. So if you feel that you cannot look past my disability and learn from me what I can teach you, then you have my permission to walk out the door now and go to the principal’s office and get  transferred out of my class.”
To the best of my knowledge in over 20 years of teaching, she never had one student leave. She was assigned to teach them English (and I’m certain she would correct my writing as we speak!) but the most important things that she taught them were about self-respect and determination. You see, Susan never let anything hold her back and her determination to succeed and do the thing that she loved won her a State Teacher of the Year Award and so much more.
Some of those same middle schooler  grew up, went to college, got married and lived their own lives. But if any of them heard that Susan was stuck in her apartment because the snow was too deep for her  to get to work, those kids were there to shovel her out. She had every reason to call in “snowed out” --yet off to work she went.
Determination -Self Respect - Respect for Others is what Ms. Susan Mussard lived and taught her students. They, like I, loved her and she will be greatly missed.
In these difficult times of strife and worries, I hope that some of you will recall this posting about a disabled woman with a lot going against her. Yet, she lived her life with determination and although she is gone, we can all learn from her and we can live our own lives with determination to do what we love and when the opportunity presents itself, share this story with others.     


  1. Thank you, Mary, for posting this about Susie. I loved her so much. She became a close friend of my family, and was an inspiration to us all, just as you say. Her spirit was free, never trapped by the confines of her physical being. What a treasure!

  2. Thank you for sharing this about Ms Mussard...she was my 8th grade english teacher and I have always had very fond memories of her and yes she did say that to us in the beginning of our class and our class did love and respect her... She did overcome many obstacles... and left such an impression on my life over the years... it was just this year that I got to reconnect with her via Facebook... and I have to say it was a HUGE BLESSING!! my heart and prayers are with you and those who loved her...