When Sue Adamek was first hired at Minnetonka High School in 1957, she wasn't expecting to stay for long. She says she picked up a job as a long-term sub for one of the social studies teachers with the goal of simply earning enough money to continue attending graduate school. What Sue found when she arrived, however, changed the way she viewed teaching. "Meeting Minnetonka's students was a complete revelation," explains Sue. "They were such fun, so intelligent, so curious and so alive!"
This was the first time Sue subbed at Minnetonka, but definitely not the last. After an initial regular position for six years, she went on maternity leave, returning to MHS numerous times over the years for a variety of long-term sub roles, the longest being three and a half years. In between these stints, she taught for two years in New South Wales, Australia, and eventually was permanently hired in Minnetonka, where she began tackling classes ranging from American Studies and European history to Economics and Ancient Egypt.
Sue is remembered by every student who had the privilege of sitting through one of her classes. Countless messages came in nominating her for the Faculty Hall of Fame award, praising her "brilliant" teaching style, ability to connect with the class and kind heart, welcoming each student into her classroom. She was known for having fun in class, while simultaneously pushing kids to think deeper and consider multiple perspectives.
When asked about the secret behind her success, Sue explains it was the little things that mattered, such as learning the names of each of her students as fast as she could. "It didn't take much, as long as the student saw that you recognized them as a person," Sue says. "They didn't need to be fixed, they didn't need to be controlled, they just had to be liked!"
Sue also stood out as a strong female role model at a time when many women did not yet have one. She says, despite growing up in a world where women were told to step back and let the men be the leaders, she found herself somewhat separate from society's general stereotype for women. Having a mother who was a career woman herself, Sue says she felt more comfortable ignoring pressure from society. While working in Minnetonka, she continued to challenge gender stereotypes by providing young female students with an example. "I kept asking to teach '11th grade, please!' I felt we needed to keep women in upper grade levels so kids didn't get the idea that women can only work with the younger students."
Reflecting on her years in Minnetonka Schools compared to the District today, Sue acknowledges a lot has changed. Minnetonka today has more opportunities for students, more advanced technology and more students. Her advice for teachers, however, remains the same: "Current teachers, enjoy your students. Learn their names."
Sue is eternally grateful for both her award and her opportunity to teach for the District. "It was a privilege to come to Minnetonka," she concludes. "It was a privilege to stay at Minnetonka. It was a privilege to keep getting called back to Minnetonka. It was a privilege to retire from Minnetonka. All things considered, it was a really, really good gig."