16 Excellence in Education winner: Suzie Clevenger

Drop out rates are a constant battle at high schools across the country. Indiana's graudation rate is 85.7%.

At Plymouth High School they can boast an 88.6% graduation rate.

So what's the reason for success? Some say a lot of the credit should go to the alternative school and the firm guidance of one loving teacher.

Our second 16 Excellence in Education award winner is a teacher at an alternative high school who uses tough love and humor to motivate her students.

Drop by Suzie Clevenger's alternative high school classroom and you'll meet kids who are turning their lives around.

"I slacked off my first three years, at that point I was just like not caring. Then, when I got to my senior year, I thought, crap, I don't know how I'm going to graduate," said XXX ,"then they put me in here and it's the best thing they could've done."

Bruce Schneider will graduate in June. He wrote us to explain how Mrs. Clevenger got him back on track.

"She's helped me get back on track with my credits so that I can graduate with my class in June," said Schenider, "I will forever appreciate her help and all that she has done for me."

"She helped me make up some of the classes that I didn't pass," said Schneider.

Mrs. Clevenger blends a sense of humor with tough love.

"She doesn't really nag. She tells you that she cares. Sometimes it's in a pep talk. Sometimes she has to yell at you in order for you to do something. After a while of doing that, it finally clicks in your head. Hey, she's trying to help me."

Counselor Stacy Sheetz admires her determination to see these kids through until they graduate.

"She never misses a graduation ceremony. She is there in the front row cheering all these kids on," said Sheetz.

It would seem that Mrs. Clevenger has always been a teacher, but she wasn't.

Special Ed Coordinator Kelsey Flynn says Mrs. Clevenger is an inspiration to others, and that it is never too late to follow your dreams.

"As an adult she made the decision to go back to make a difference," said Flynn.

Once students are caught up, they leave her class, but not her radar. She checks up on them through the computer.

"I can't quit looking at 'em. I can't quit seeing if they're okay or if they're turning their homework in," said Clevenger.

Flunk a test or miss an assignment? You'll hear from Mrs. Clevenger. And don't even try skipping school.

"I had a really bad problem with going to school. So then I started getting texts and calls in the morning and now she knows where I live."

"The principals and I, and the counselors tag team, in giving wake up calls, you know we're at senior crunch time now and every moment counts," said Clevenger.

Moments made special by one incredible teacher.

"The world would be a lot better if there were more people like Mrs. Clevenger."

"I learn more from them than they ever do from me," Clevenger said.


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