The Southside Times Educator of the Year: Susan Tomlinson

Franklin Central High School teacher uses a passion for history to inspire students and colleagues

By Nancy Price

Susan Tomlinson’s passion for U.S. history started while listening to her third-grade teacher read the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. “The stories of these pioneer settlers fascinated me and gave me an appreciation for the history of the westward movement,” Tomlinson said.

In addition, both sets of her grandparents travelled, bringing back gifts and stories of international culture, which sparked her interest in sociology. “I have traveled to 26 countries in Europe and Asia including China, Japan and Saudi Arabia and lived in Germany for five years during the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification,” she said. “I use those experiences to enhance my teaching.”

Tomlinson, a U.S. History and Sociology teacher for Franklin Central High School, has been named The Southside Times’ Educator of the Year.

Susan Tomlinson lives in rural Morgan County. (Submitted photos)

A TEACHING LEGEND

“Mrs. Susan Tomlinson is a teaching legend,” said Lisa Laker, English teacher for Franklin Central High School. “Recognized as our district’s first Teacher of the Year many years ago, Susan continues to develop professionally and serves on the Indiana Council for the Social Studies executive board, the Indianapolis Sister Cities International executive teacher outreach board and she consults for Gilder Lehrman United States History organization. In this capacity, Mrs. Tomlinson was chosen to advise on award-winning Ken Burns’ documentary, Vietnam. She has been awarded Indiana Social Studies Teacher of the Year by Gilder Lehrman, and she has been honored with a plethora of awards, including a Lily Teacher Creativity Fellowship that took her on teaching adventures to Slovenia, Italy and Croatia. Susan is highly accomplished. She is my educational hero!”

“Susan is also a wealth of information acquired from her many travels, workshops and work within the field of social studies,” added Cacinda Walters, Government, U.S. and World History teacher for FCHS. “Her dedication and contributions to our field is beyond description.”

Tomlinson is surrounded by the class of 2020 FCHS student volunteers at the Indianapolis Sister Cities International Teacher Outreach Conference, which she chaired. 

Tomlinson grew up in Mooresville and graduated from Mooresville High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in Social Studies Education and her master’s in Secondary Education and U.S. and World History from Ball State University. She studied post-graduate at I.U. Bloomington, Purdue and IUPUI. Tomlinson began her career by teaching in Muncie, Ind., including the Burris Laboratory School’s Center for Gifted and Talented at Ball State University. She spent an additional five years teaching in Manheim, Germany. Tomlinson taught World Geography at Franklin Township Middle School for 10 years and has been with Franklin Central High School for the past 18 years. She was a founding member of the Freshman Academy and, with Laker, founded World Cultures Club 15 years ago.

CELEBRATING DIVERSITY

“Our township was growing and with this growth came an increase in the rich diversity of our population,” explained Tomlinson. “We saw World Cultures Club as a way to recognize and celebrate the cultures represented in our school.  The response to the club was enthusiastic and within a few years it was the biggest club at the school. The highlight of the year was the Flashes Around the World International Festival which continues to be a showcase of exhibits and performances celebrating Franklin Township’s multi-cultural community.”

Tomlinson also created an annual “Eva Education Day” for students and the community to celebrate the life of the late Auschwitz survivor and Hoosier, Eva Mozes Kor. Kor founded the CANDLES Museum in Terre Haute, Ind. “When Governor Holcomb declared Eva Education Day in Indiana, the History Club decided to create an after-school event to recognize this event and to promote Eva’s message of forgiveness,” Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson has been with the Franklin Township Community School Corporation for 28 years.

USING HISTORY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

“History is made up of fascinating stories of people of different backgrounds, abilities and areas of talent,” Tomlinson continued. “I want students to realize that they can make history in some way. Even as high school students they have a voice and ideas that they can use to make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.”

Although Tomlinson has more than 40 years of teaching behind her belt, she continues to learn every day … from her students. “I continue to grow in my love and appreciation for these human beings who are my students,” she said. “I learn from them, and I grow and explore with them. Teenagers are amazing creatures who can be kind, compassionate, caring, innovative, creative, funny and challenging. They keep me growing and learning … and they keep me young!”

“It is inspiring to see an educator who has been in the field as long as she has to be so passionate and dedicated to her students, colleagues and field of study,” said Walters. “I for one am truly grateful for being able to be her colleague, let alone call her a friend.”

Tomlinson has been married to her husband, Chuck for 43 years. They have three dogs, a horse and one pony and live on eight acres of land in rural Morgan County.

An animal lover: Tomlinson with her horse, Kizzie.

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH SUSAN TOMLINSON

Pick three adjectives to describe yourself.

Energetic, happy and thankful

What do you like to do in your free time?

Read, travel, horseback ride and camp

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book in the last year has been Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates and When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan

What makes you happiest?

Relaxing around a fire outside with my husband and three dogs, just relaxing.

What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Sometimes I am shy.