Now that she’s 72 years old, Spokane Valley High School counselor Suzanne Ruth-Scott is finally ready to retire and bring to an end her 50 years working in the West Valley School District.
And she means it this time. “My family doesn’t believe it because I’ve been saying I’m going to do it,” she said.
Ruth-Scott has spent almost her entire life in the district. She attended West Valley schools as a child and graduated from West Valley High School. She got her teaching degree from Central Washington University and taught for a year in Enumclaw, Washington.
“I was visiting my parents and my mom said, ‘There’s an opening at West Valley High School,’ ” Ruth-Scott said.
She applied for the job and got it, going to work at the school she had graduated from only a few years earlier. “That was an interesting experience,” she said.
And there she stayed for 17 years, though that wasn’t originally the plan. Ruth-Scott thought she might teach for a few years, then move on to something else. “I never planned to stay in education that long,” she said. “But there were always reasons to stay.”
During her time at the high school she taught home economics, math and leadership. She was also the cheerleading adviser and an adviser for other clubs and activities. “I just kind of did whatever they needed me to do,” she said.
An administrator she knew encouraged her to become a school counselor, so she went back to school and earned a master’s degree in counseling from then-Whitworth College 32 years ago. She was a counselor at Ness Elementary, Pasadena Park Elementary and Orchard Center. As she worked as a counselor, she met fellow counselor Larry Bush, who had a dream to open an alternative school. In 1998, Bush became the principal of the brand-new City School, a project-based school for grades 5-8, and Ruth-Scott joined his staff as a counselor.
Project-based schools are common now, but that wasn’t the case back then. “That was really unusual in 1998,” she said. “I knew that I could use some of my skills and it would be supported. I loved being in a situation where we could help kids fall back in love with learning.”
She watched students who were unhappy in school thrive and be excited again. “Some kids are just blatantly kinesthetic learners,” she said. “They need to be hands-on. It isn’t for everybody, but it is for those particular kids.”
Though she was there at the beginning, Ruth-Scott points to Bush as the one who made it happen. “Larry is a visionary, and I’m more what I call a worker bee,” she said. “I just loved the creative aspect of it. I loved working with kids.”
In 2003, Bush left City School to lead Spokane Valley High School, also a project-based school, and Ruth-Scott followed. She’s been there ever since. “I have loved it,” she said. “I started in high school, made a circle and am back in high school again.”
Ruth-Scott said she likes to help her students make the transition from high school to what comes next. She said she’s always encouraging them to look beyond high school graduation. “I like being able to help kids take their next step in life,” she said. “There’s so much more after high school.”
Superintendent Gene Sementi has worked with Ruth-Scott during his entire 31-year tenure in West Valley. “When I got here, Suzanne had already been here for 19 years,” he said.
Ruth-Scott has had many positions in the district, and she was excellent in all of them, Sementi said. “She’s going to leave a huge hole,” he said.
The district nominated Ruth-Scott to be the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce Teacher of the Year this year. Sementi said it wasn’t because she’s retiring, but because she had an outstanding year, perhaps the best year of her career. In fact, she has continued to improve every year, he said.
“She was as impactful as any teacher or educator in the district this year,” he said. “Suzanne was better in year 49 than she was in year 48 and better in year 50 than she was in year 49.”
Part of the key to her success is her deep connection to kids, Sementi said. “She knows their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles,” he said.
Though she’s talked about retiring for a few years now, Ruth-Scott said it was Bush’s decision to retire this year, along with some health issues, that pushed her to finally retire. She said it doesn’t seem like her career has stretched over 50 years. “It all went so fast,” she said. “Life speeds up on you.”
She had hoped to do some traveling with her husband this year, but that’s on hold. “My husband and I were going to take this wonderful cruise,” she said.
But she has other plans as well. “I want to study the Bible more,” she said. “I want to learn to play bridge.”
She knows she’ll volunteer at the school where her niece teaches 3-year-old special education students. She also wants to volunteer in the community. “I know I still need to embrace that in some way,” she said. “I just don’t know what it is.”
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