Laverne Suster ’82, ’16, who was recently selected by the Master of Education program at Chaminade University as its Outstanding Graduate, has been a dedicated Catholic School educator and a dedicated Chaminade alumni for 35 years.
Suster entered Chaminade University fresh out of high school and in 1982 received her bachelor’s degree in Education with a focus in English. A few months before graduating from Chaminade, she applied to teach at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School and was accepted. Three decades of teaching passed, and in 2014 Suster decided to return to college for her post-graduate degree.
Invited to be a part of Chaminade University’s Catholic Educational Leadership Cohort, she decided to go for it. “I went back for my master’s degree only because it was Chaminade. I have always been a dedicated alumni because of the fabulous education I received there,” said Suster.
Her cohort included elementary and high school teachers and school administrators from Catholic schools across the diocese. Cohort members all had to manage jobs and families and scrounge for time and energy to complete their studies. “As a member of the cohort, I can attest that that is the way to go through a master’s program. To be constantly surrounded by people who can relate to every moment you are experiencing is comforting, encouraging and very special,” Suster advised. “I would definitely be a part of a cohort again. I am so appreciative.”
When Suster received the Outstanding Graduate award, it was the culmination of decades spent as a Catholic schools educator combined with the nurturing provided by Catholic educators who taught her from childhood through her undergraduate and graduate studies at Chaminade. Suster entered Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in 1967 when it first opened. The school, which is part of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish in Ewa Beach, serves students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
Attending Our Lady of Perpetual Help as a student, Suster experienced firsthand dedicated teachers who went out of their way to make sure she succeeded. It was there she first wanted to be a teacher. “I knew at around fourth grade,” she recalled. Though her desire faded during her early teen years, by 12th grade she was on fire again and determined to be a teacher. She set her sights on Chaminade University.
Suster loves teaching. It is more a vocation or calling for her. Her joy is evident as she tells you about her sixth, seventh and eighth graders: “I love their senses of humor. A lot of people cringe at the thought of spending 35-40 hours a week with kids this age, but if they take the time to know these kids, they are really creative, energetic and warm-hearted people who just want to find their place in our world. They are really great.”
Suster kept her students apprised of her master’s experience at Chaminade from the very beginning. “They were my sixth graders at the time I started the program. Now they are my 8th graders. I have shared many new things with them including different ways I learned to study or prepare for tests, how nervous I was that I had papers due, and they always encouraged me,” she shared. “When I sent out invitations to my graduation, I didn’t send them to my family members. I sent them to my students and their families because I wanted them to experience a college graduation…a little added inspiration for them. When they actually showed up, I was floored…and so happy,” she recalled.
At the 2016 fall commencement on December 12, her students from Our Lady of Perpetual Help joined her family and friends to cheer her on and cover her with lei. Suster was grateful, and her students were inspired.
“Teach only if you are in love with teaching, and if you should ever fall out of love with teaching, stop! Anything less is a disservice to our children. This should not be one of those occupations that you do just because you can’t find work elsewhere,” Suster emphasized.
Then she added calmly: “Also, just remember to breathe. All teachers would understand that.”