Meet Mrs. Bertz, Denmark’s Teacher of the Year


Leigh Anne Turner

Mrs. Bertz accepts her outstanding award as Teacher of the Year.

Teachers strive to make lifelong impacts on their students, tinkering with methods of instruction to ensure they receive the best possible direction. These remarkable teachers attempt to excite learners attending school every day to keep them motivated. Simply helping a student understand a difficult concept is enough to put a smile on the instructor’s face. Denmark High School’s teacher of the year, Suzanne Bertz, does precisely that: she welcomes Danes with open arms and accommodates their needs, leaving a lasting influence.

Mrs. Bertz majored in Education in college. Following graduation, she took her career in a different direction. She worked in a corporate setting, a path she ultimately decided to change. “I wanted to use my skills for making the world a better place,” Bertz says. She took the education route which she knew she would come back to, a desire her heart wished to fulfill. Now, Mrs. Bertz has been a teacher for twelve years and has worked at Denmark for four years. She teaches American Literature and World History to special ed students, a role in which she takes exceptional pride. One of her most rewarding experiences is her students receiving phenomenal grades on standardized tests, such as EOCs. At the beginning of the school year, some students may lack the motivation to complete satisfactory work. She explains, “I take a lot of pride in seeing their growth. I love [their growth] most of all.” 

While attending school is a daily obligation that many high-schoolers often dread, Mrs. Bertz engages her groups creatively to ensure they are engrossed in their classroom activities. At the start of each class period, she begins her lesson with an opinion question relating to the curriculum. This method is multipurpose: students get their pencils out to prepare for instruction and engage in classroom discussions, further enhancing their public speaking skills. “It’s like a secret motive,” she comments, “because they love doing it!” Additionally, she develops her Danes’ mindsets in a way that makes them inherently hardworking. As a special ed teacher, she understands that not everybody learns the same way. “I kind of scaffold and customize [the curriculum] so that students end up with what they need to perform well in my class and on the EOCs,” she elaborates. To help her classes grasp more from her lessons, she adjusts her teaching methods according to one’s learning style or comprehension level.

In her twelve years of teaching, Mrs. Bertz has taught life and academic lessons to her teenagers. These efforts are not one-sided: her scholars have initiated learning moments for her. “There’s something to learn from them daily,” she states with a smile. Although some students may lose confidence in their learning abilities, rather than blaming students, she seeks to improve her teaching processes. She says, “I just haven’t learned the right way to teach it [to you]!” She recalls a specific experience: one student refused to work outside the comfort of his oversized sweatshirt. He buried himself in his hoodie, with his face barely visible to his classmates. Rather than ridiculing him, she proposed a solution: if he completed his assignment, then he could stay hidden in his sweatshirt; The teenager quickly finished his work. She recalls how he had to “finish the assignment with his phone flashlight in his sweatshirt” as he emerged like a turtle from its shell. The pupil went on to win a grade-wide writing contest during freshman year, an accomplishment possible through Mrs. Bertz’ motivational push. 

While teachers face obstacles daily, a highlight that makes it all worthwhile is the unbreakable bonds built between instructors and students. Mrs. Bertz puts it this way: “you see where they start and you’re able to push them.” Assisting teenagers in reaching their maximum potential is a notable achievement for teachers worldwide and at Denmark.