Teresa Susi is presented with her Award for Distinguished Service by Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby and Patrick Daly, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. Photo courtesy HWCDS

Kids always come first on trainer’s priority list

  • April 14, 2019

“I’m like a crazy woman,” laughs Teresa Susi. “I go like a yo-yo.” But there’s a method to her madness, she goes on to say. And because of that, it’s the young people in the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board who benefit.

Susi, a central trainer of custodians for the board and longserving union steward with Liuna, the custodians’ union, has put the interests of kids at the forefront as she has spearheaded a number of initiatives to better the lives of children and help them be successful in the school system. It led the school board to honour Susi with its Award for Distinguished Service to Catholic Education earlier this school year.

“I love children, I’ll do anything for them,” said Susi.

Susi’s call to serve began at St. Luke Elementary School in Hamilton’s east end, where Susi began her career as an assistant custodian in 1988. Susi soon became heavily involved in the school community and would routinely arrive at the school three hours before her shift so she could teach students a dance for the annual school pageant.

“I love to dance, even though I’m an older lady,” said the 71-yearold Susi, laughing, something she does a lot of in a brief conversation.

It’s all part of Susi’s belief that in her work she is “creating spaces for children to learn and thrive,” said Patrick Daly, board chair, in presenting Susi with her award.

“Despite her substantial professional contributions, it is her commitment to, and work on behalf of students that most distinguish her for this award,” said Daly.

Beyond helping out with the student’s dance routine, “she also spent numerous hours sewing, mending, washing and ironing clothes for disadvantaged students at the school.”

Susi spent 27 years at St. Luke’s before taking on her new role at the board a few years ago.

Susi is also one of the main organizers of the custodial and maintenance staff’s annual garage sale and dinner-dance which have raised tens of thousands of dollars for local charities over the years, including the Catholic Youth Organization and the board’s Equal Opportunities initiative which provides access to nutrition programs, literacy and numeracy programs and out of school learning and after school activities for students in need.

It’s all a labour of love for Susi, and it all comes back to her affection for the kids.

“Anybody can do the things I do. You have to like children,” she said.

She laughs, again, that maybe her co-workers don’t share that same affinity for the kids. She said she can drive them crazy with her passion for giving back, and can put plenty of pressure on others to help out. But help out they do.

“I’m an Italian lady, sometimes I blackmail people. They start laughing. ‘Are you blackmailing me?’ Yes I do. I drive people crazy.”

That would include her husband Fred, who, like Susi’s co-workers, gives in to her pressure. He is at his wife’s side lending a hand and for the past 17 years has played a major role in the custodian dinner- dance. The couple has one daughter, who teaches at St. Joseph High School in Mississauga.

Her union, as well as companies it deals with, are also not immune to Susi’s charms. They provide cash donations and raffle prizes as well as the union hall.

It sounds like a lot of work, and it is, she admits, but in the end it’s worth it. She gets back as much as she gives, and said she’s “privileged” to have been on the journey with so many kids over the years.

Susi only wishes she had more ideas on how to raise more funds for these programs and needs only to remind herself of why she does what she does.

“You can’t deny a child.”

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