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From a Love for Literature to a Lasting Legacy

The most meaningful legacies are rooted in our values and modeled after our actions and passions. For some, this is a natural conclusion; and any one of us would be lucky to have a legacy as significant as Sue Scribner’s.

She was the first of her family to attend university, graduating from Sioux Falls College (now University of Sioux Falls) in 1963, and going on to earn a Master’s degree afterwards. She went on to inspire generations of students as a language arts and social studies teacher at Whittier Middle School.

Scribner’s longtime friend, Marianne Larsen, used to roam the gravel roads of South Dakota in search of abandoned schoolhouses and old barns to photograph. The pair would often adventure together, with Scribner planning lessons in the passenger seat while Larsen scanned the horizon for points of interest.

Scribner’s true passion, and her lasting impact, resided with her students. The classroom was not the end of her dedication to her students — Scribner participated in school activities in any way she could. She was known for her role in the ticket booth before sports games, and got a special joy from cafeteria duty.

Larsen was a fellow educator, working as an Educational Assistant at Whitter along with Scribner. While she didn’t start teaching until later in life, “Sue knew that education is how you create a better life for yourself,” Larsen said. This understanding sparked a passion for helping others create better lives through education.

“She really did enjoy her students,” Larsen said, “She would make fun of herself and stick pencils up her nose! Because I think she knew that kids related to their studies better if you had a sense of humor and did funny, crazy things with them.”

Nearly as much as she loved teaching, Scribner loved to write. The principal at Whittier recruited her as the go-to person for any editing and proofreading needs. “She could have written Strunk and White!” Larsen said, referring to the classic 1930’s writing manual, The Elements of Style.

“Sue lived a meaningful life,” Larsen said.

Through Scribner’s thoughtful intention and charitable estate planning, her legacy as a teacher lives on through the Sue E. Scribner Reading Endowment held at the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation. This endowment helps bring enrichment activities and projects to middle school classrooms in the Sioux Falls School District. Working in concert with the school district’s Public School Proud grant program, reading and language arts teachers can receive funding for creative and impactful projects in the classroom.

One such project takes place every Thursday afternoon at Memorial Middle School. Sixth grade English Language Arts teacher, Sue Zueger, received a grant for her project called “It’s A Muse Thing: Improving Literacy in the Makerspace Environment.” Open to all Memorial students in 6th through 8th grade, Zueger says this creative writing club provides an after school activity “for many middle school students who don’t necessarily fit into traditional groups like student council or sports outlets.”

The club has grown substantially during the fall semester, at times hosting nearly 40 students. For the first half-hour each week, the students are given a writing prompt to focus on, and then have an opportunity to share their work with the group. The remaining half-hour is open for the students to work on their own ideas and projects, with more time for sharing. “I let students know that this is not a class,” Zueger said, “but a place to express themselves; which has helped even the most struggling writers feel comfortable.”

Across town, at Whittier Middle School, English Language Arts teacher Kaylee Jorde also has innovative ideas for her classroom. Inspired by the University of Arizona, Jorde created language “kits,” consisting of fiction and nonfiction books, games, music, and other items that focus on a particular world language or culture. Students can check these kits out from the library to learn about a language or culture that isn’t commonly taught in school curriculums.

“Our population is multi-lingual and globally connected,” Jorde said, “and often times it is harder for our students to see themselves or see others represented in the general population, including in literature.”

The literature in the kits is meant to celebrate the linguistic beauty and cultural heritage of her students’ backgrounds. “It has been really positive to see students engaging in games or books that they see themselves in.”

Projects like Zueger’s and Jorde’s are funded in part by Scribner’s endowment each year, bringing her love and passion for teaching to a new generation of educators, and empowering the next generation of students with Sue’s zest for the language arts.

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