Meet your teacher: Susan Rutherford


Name: Susan Rutherford

Grade/Subject at what school: Seventh and eighth grade special education teacher at Westfield Middle School.

Number of years teaching: 18 years.

Background/Schooling (college and high school):

Pascack Hills High School, Montvale, N.J.

Bachelor’s degree in special education from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and Ball State University.

Master’s degree from Ball State University.

Why did you want to become a teacher? I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. My parents could never park in our garage because I had it set up as a classroom. All the neighborhood kids were my students.When my children began going to school full time,I worked in a preschool for special-needs children. I fell in love with the children and I knew I belonged in the field of special education.

What goals do you have for your students? I want them to bring their reading, writingand math skills equivalent to grade level, but I also want them to see the big picture.I want them to have goals and realize the hard work they are doing now will pay off in the future. I hope they leave the middle school able to self-advocate, problem solve and work and think independently.

What do you encourage parents to do at home to help their children strengthen particular skills? Have a set study time each day. Special-needs students do best with structure and routine. Encourage them to read at home, especially during the summer. Find computer programs or iPad applications that will help strengthen math and reading skills. Praise them for small achievements – they really do work hard all day!

Favorite book: “A Fine Balance”

Favorite musician or band: Tom Petty

What is something your students don’t know about you? I love to travel and beganan annual tradition of traveling with my daughters on our girls trips. We’ve been to Kenya, Dominican Republic, Ireland and Costa Rica. I also love to run; I completed one mini-marathon and attempted another, but I broke my ankle during mile 3.