Skip to Content

A Final Sunset




Oregon teacher Suzanne Garman realized a lifelong dream on the beaches of Hawaii.

Editor’s Note: Before completing this story about Garman’s special trip, we learned that she had passed away after three years with cancer. Although we do not usually feature deceased members, we wanted to share her story.

It was on the Mondays that her students and coworkers returned from spring vacations that Garman’s wanderlust would really kick in. The middle school teacher in West Linn, Oregon, listened and imagined as they described beach expanses edged by crystal waters and towering, swaying palm trees. She loved warm places and the ocean and always pressed the returning travelers for more details.

But in the spring of 2002, distant islands were pushed from Garman’s mind. Doctors diagnosed her with ovarian cancer. She had to retire on disability and leave the classroom behind. But her colleagues and students at Rosemont Ridge Middle School didn’t forget her role in their lives. They decided that Garman and her new fiancé needed to see the exotic islands of Hawaii firsthand.

For months, they raised money selling soda and raffle tickets (the winners shaved the sellers’ heads), and they sponsored an all-night slumber party, a fishing trip, and a shopping excursion. When they were done, they had raised enough to finance a 10-day trip for Garman.

During the fund-raising, an inspired Garman put even more energy into managing and fighting her illness. She ate more healthfully, read more, and drew good friends even more into her life.

Upon receiving $4,000 for the Hawaii trip, Garman was overwhelmed. “I don’t think she really could believe it for a while,” says Dennis Kuklok, her husband. “To see how much her students and other teachers cared for her was so moving.”

Like many other newlyweds who find themselves in Hawaii, Suzanne and Dennis swam, snorkeled, and sampled the local restaurants’ offerings—food plucked right from the surrounding ocean and farms. “We were lucky,” Kuklok says, his voice getting quieter, then silent. Within a few months of their return, Garman’s health began to decline steadily. “We wouldn’t have had any more time,” he says. “We thought we’d have more.”

Garman died last fall at age 53.

That gift for connecting with her students was a powerful force in Garman’s life. Even after cancer forced her to leave the classroom, Garman was unable to ignore her calling as an educator. Delving into books on conflict resolution, she made plans to volunteer at middle schools and teach students about non-violent communication.

“Real teachers can’t change,” Garman said in an interview last year. “If you are committed to meeting the needs of the kids, that energy comes from somewhere.”

—CAROLYN WHITE and CYNTHIA KOPKOWSKI

¿Como se dice buen idea? Iguana!

When Christianne Meneses Jacobs couldn’t find a quality children’s Spanish-language magazine, she got an idea: create one.

Meneses Jacobs’ iguana has something a little different from most lizards under its skin—pages of entertaining and educational reading, artfully assembled out of a desire to preserve cultural identity.

The second-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona, created Iguana, a magazine for children ages 7—12, written in Spanish. It was born out of Meneses Jacobs’ struggle to find quality Spanish literature for her young daughter. She wanted something to help her retain Spanish language skills and take pride in her heritage. With help from native speakers from around the world, she and her husband published the first 32-page issue last year. They filled it with stories, educational articles, and colorful pictures.

“The idea for this magazine is that kids will continue reading in Spanish, especially since we are becoming a global society where it’s so important to be bilingual,” says Meneses Jacobs, a native Nicaraguan who moved to the United States in 1988. While helping bilingual children retain the language and preserve the Latino culture, the magazine serves as a supplemental classroom resource. She alternates reading the magazine to her students in English and Spanish, and says some students enjoy it so much they ask their parents for a home subscription. The bimonthly magazine contains ideas for art projects, recipes, word searches, comic strips, and interviews with prominent Latinos.

Flip through a few sample pages from a  recent issue and visit http://www.iguanamagazine.com/. You can find the Spanish-language site at http://www.iguanarevista.com/ .          

—MARY ROBBINS

He Likes Them To Move It, Move It

Connecticut science teacher Douglas Haddad hits the airwaves and ground to get kids healthy.

Students jump around wildly in Haddad’s classroom at Henry James Memorial Middle School in Simsbury, Connecticut, and it’s not because of shoddy discipline. Rather, Haddad relishes bringing fitness concepts into his classroom. He can’t help it.

Haddad is a former cardio-kickboxer, coach, and personal trainer who hits the Hartford, Connecticut, airwaves regularly as the host of a radio program on health and fitness called “The Doctor Doug Show.” The country’s childhood obesity epidemic is a frequent topic. Haddad recently completed a dissertation on childhood obesity in which he stresses that teachers have to encourage students to get healthy.

“There’s no excuse for poor health and fitness,” says Haddad, who wrote the book Top Ten Tips for Tip Top Shape. “At school, we participate in many activities where the kids can find out the benefits of being fit.” In his science classroom, students do hands-on experiments like measuring their heart rates after exercise. Brisk nature walks do double duty—lessons on flora and fauna, as well as a great workout.

It’s not just the students benefitting from Haddad’s fitness finesse. He helps fellow teachers and support professionals craft exercise and nutrition programs. They have to take a “no excuses” approach to their health though, Haddad says. “You can make anything happen. Just solve it like a problem.”’

His tips for educators this month? Dodge April showers and get outside for walks, even if only for a few minutes. Boost protein in soups and salads by adding whole grains; fruits like figs and raisins; or legumes, such as lentils and kidney beans.                 

—RITU SHARMA
Photos: Dennis Kuklok, Marc Jacobs, Jonathan Olson

Published in:

Published In

25-Apr-06