Woodruff retires from Columbia

Suzanne Woodruff has retired after teaching for 27 years. (CONTRIBUTED)
Suzanne Woodruff has retired after teaching for 27 years. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – When Columbia Elementary School opened 11 years ago, Suzanne Woodruff transferred from Madison County Schools to teach.

“I gave up tenure and took a chance on a fresh new path,” Woodruff said. “We began that school with a wide variety of teachers and styles, but we all worked together like a well-oiled machine.”

The district recognized Woodruff’s retirement when this school year ended, but she actually retired in October 2014. Since graduating from Auburn University, she has taught grades 3-6.

Woodruff and her co-workers used humor to get through difficult days. “Our friendships went much deeper than co-worker relationships. I stay in touch with many weekly,” she said.

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Woodruff said. She admired all elementary teachers, especially in fourth and sixth grades. “They both cared more about the children than what they were required to teach.”

“This philosophy of education has served me well for my 27 years as a public educator,” Woodruff said. “I’ve reached hundreds of kids by loving while educating them. It’s too hard of a job not to love what you do.”

Woodruff has three suggestions for new teachers: “Love those kids. Laugh with those kids and co-workers. Remember each one of those kids is someone’s most prized possession … treat them that way.”

A native of Iuka, Miss., she moved to Huntsville in 1988 after college and to Madison in 1993 after marrying husband Van, who works as an engineer at NASA. Their daughter Allison graduated from Bob Jones High School in 2013 and is a junior majoring in accounting at the University of Alabama.

Suzanne tutors part time, helping her transition from a classroom. “With Allison in college, extra shoe and dress money doesn’t hurt either,” she said. Suzanne also cares for her 88-year-old father.

When school starts in August, Suzanne will be enjoying the beach. “The first time in 27 years. There’s nothing more rewarding than reflecting on your career and knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, you made a difference in lots of children. I’m at peace.”

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