Susan Wade is a firecracker. She has to be, she runs one of the largest preschools in Charlotte, The Children’s Circle at Myers Park United Methodist Church (our Smarty Awards Winner for best area preschool for the last three years!). You can’t miss Susan, she is the one wearing silly hats, costumes, and occasionally a “fairy godmother” dress. Susan really celebrates life and believes in the importance of true friendship. As a life long educator, Susan has seen it all. Today she guides her preschool staff leaning on the philosophy of play-based learning and fun!
Susan never takes herself too seriously and I love that about her. She is the first person to support you through a crisis. When you have a conversation with Susan she makes you feel like you are the only person in the world and gives you her undivided attention. Such a rare trait.
Just a few weeks ago, Susan accomplished an amazing goal. She completed the Trail Blaze Challenge for Make-A-Wish Foundation. With amazing grace and strength, Susan hiked 24.1 miles in 1 day to impact the lives of children in our community with life-threatening medical conditions.
Charlotte, meet Susan Quinn Wade our Smarty MOM and GRANDMOTHER!!!
Susan’s Smarty Mom Quick Facts
Mom to: Malone Lockaby, Quinn Yi, Carney Wade
Years lived in Charlotte: 30+ years
You have 3 daughters, 2 son-in-laws, and two grandchildren! I imagine that makes for fun memories. What is it like when you are all 8 together?
We have a blast! Luckily the boys have been around since high school, so they know us well! They tolerate my traditions of wearing bunny ears at Easter and matching Christmas pjs! Well actually, we amended that tradition….it’s a “girls only” tradition! We play games, give gag gifts and laugh A LOT!!
What is it like to be a Grandmother!?
I’m “Mommo” and I love sharing those “tiny” moments with my grandchildren…..dancing, singing, reading books and pretending. I can rock a tutu with the best of them! These little ones amaze me. Their brains never stop. I also LOVE watching my daughter and her husband as parents. They are an awesome team!
How is being a Grandmother different from playing the role of “mom”?
I guess the biggest difference is the exhaustion! I’m not sure I knew I was tired when my children were little, but when I watch my daughter or our preschool moms, I just want to give them some PTO! Ellington and Winsley live a couple of hours away, so I don’t see them everyday. When I do see them, I’ve had a full night’s sleep! When I visit, we play! As the “mom” I had other things I had to do… Being a Grandmother is just FUN!
How did you make the transition from teaching to running a preschool?
I loved teaching! I really get my energy from children. After teaching for many years, I was given the opportunity to work as a Literacy Coach. In that position, I mentored, coached and trained classroom teachers. It was the best of both worlds! I was still in the classroom with children AND I got to do professional development for teachers. During that time, the director’s position at MPUMC became available. I was approached about the job and thought I’d at least look into it……and 7 years later, here I am! I have the best job in the world!
What is the one message you would like to share with preschool-aged parents?
There are so many!!! First and foremost – YOU ARE DOING A GREAT JOB!!! Seriously, parents are really hard on themselves! The rest of my advice will probably sound trite, but it’s what I really believe, so here it is……
*The parenthood journey is long. Preserve your energy.
*Each child has a unique path. Theirs may look very different than yours, go with it.
*Plan for “forks in the road.”
*Children will eventually leave…make sure you are not left living with a stranger (i.e. your spouse or partner).
*Enjoy every minute of this precious time. “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’m not sure who said that, but it is so true!
Where does your passion for teaching come from?
I’m not sure where it comes from. I know that I have a passion for learning and a natural curiosity about things. I think that’s why I connect with children and how they learn. They are naturally curious. I think of myself as more of a facilitator to learning. That way I’m along for the ride, so to speak. I like to help children learn to think, not teach them what to think.
How did you decide to take the Trail Blaze Challenge?
Funny story…..I noticed the billboard on my way to rent a “Fairy God Mother” costume for one of our preschool events. I love to hike, so the hikers graphic caught my eye! When I read the billboard I thought it was a little too ironic that I was going to pretend to be someone who granted wishes and this event was for Make A Wish! It seemed a little crazy…hike 24 miles in one day? Who does that? Me, apparently!
What does the Challenge support and why is the cause so important to you?
The Challenge supports our local Make A Wish chapter. They grant “wishes” to children with life-threatening medical conditions “to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy!” I had no connection with MAW before the Challenge. But each time I mentioned MAW, whether I was on the trail, at preschool or among friends, someone had a connection. I just can’t imagine having a really sick child. I know how horrible I felt when one of mine had a fever! After hearing some of the first hand accounts of how the MAW experiences gave these families a little hope and a reason to smile, I was hooked!
What was the experience of hiking 24.1 miles in a single day like?
As crazy as it sounds, I didn’t want that day to end! We started hiking in the dark, listened as roosters crowed at sunrise and got to see one of the beautiful trails in NC. There were 57 hikers from all walks of life (no pun intended.) I was so lucky to start the hike with Matt, his dad and his uncle. Matt is an 18 yr. old high school senior who was a MAW kid when he was 6! He had leukemia, but is now a healthy young man headed for college in the fall. He was really an inspiration. He didn’t hike with us for long…he was much too fast! We each hiked at our own pace, just like you have to do in life. Every time I was hot, there seemed to be a breeze. Every time I was a little tired, there was a new wildflower or lichen. Oh yes, AND THERE WAS A BEAR!! But, that’s a story for another day!
How do you lend a hand to families in your preschool with preschool aged children facing medical issues!?
We have such a wonderful preschool community! I usually hear the news from a mom that a family is facing a crisis, then the wheels are set into motion. Someone takes a prayer shawl, meals are organized, carpools and play dates are arranged and cards are sent. I make calls and send emails. I let the family know to take preschool off their “worry list”. We can handle anything that comes up at school. I couldn’t do it without our supportive families and staff.
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment as a mom?
When your children are young, people often ask what your dreams are for them. I realized that I usually said, “I just want them to be kind, good people and I want them to be happy.” Of course, at some point that wasn’t enough….I wanted them to go to college, get a good job, etc., etc., etc.! They did those things. Then, I realized that the first statement was really the important one. Their lives would be empty if they accomplished great things but weren’t great people. I’m a little hesitant to take credit for their character, but I’d like to think I had something to do with it. I am very proud of the young women they have become. They are women of character. They are kind and honest. They have good friends and are good friends. They stand up for what they believe in and live lives of integrity.
What is the most important lesson you have learned since you started working at a preschool?
Listen. Listen to children, listen to parents, listen to teachers, listen to myself. Be still and listen to God. I like to talk…..so this is not an easy lesson for me.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Whoa! Ten years…it’s dangerous to ask someone my age that! I’ve never really been a planner, I just take life as it comes. So, I have no idea. I hope to still be hiking the trails of NC and beyond and spending time with friends and family. I love to work, so I can’t image not working. I guess I’ll retire at some point…..who knows?
Favorite thing about living in Charlotte?
One thing? The people. No better people anywhere! The trees. Every time I travel and come home, I am stunned by the lushness of this city! I also love the proximity to the mountains and the beach.
Could not live without my . . .
Peeps! (as in people not the marshmallowy confection!)
For more information on the Trail Blaze Challenge please click here. Thank you, Susan, for sharing your Saturday with us!