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Longtime LOHS teacher retires

Susan Branam leaves after 35 years with school district, but will remain as tennis coach this spring

REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - LOHS senior and varsity swimmer Jeske Paanakker gives co-head swim team coach Susan Branam a farewell hug.As health teacher Susan Branam stepped out of the last class of her career, she was surprised with a raucus sendoff from students.

Dozens of teens lined either side of one of Lake Oswego High School’s major hallways, walling Branam in with applause and cheers Jan. 28 on the last day of the first semester.

Branam isn’t leaving LOHS completely. She may be retiring from the classroom, but she plans to continue on the court as head coach of Laker girls tennis this spring. She is still deciding whether to return as co-head coach of the LOHS swim team next winter.

Branam says the staff at LOHS has been great to work with, and the students have been “awesome.”

“The kids here are so respectful,” she says. “They’re interested in learning.”

Branam, 55, started her professional life young, joining LOHS as a teacher at age 20 after graduating from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Wash. She was 16 when she earned her diploma from St. Helens High School in St. Helens.

All 35 years of her teaching career have been spent in the Lake Oswego School District.

“That’s a big deal — that’s saying a lot,” says Bob McGranahan, LOHS theater arts and health teacher.

McGranahan says former LOHS choir director Cole Blume did call LOSD a “destination district,” so it’s an attractive place to be. But to give all of your teaching years to it is unusual.

“There are not that many people that have done that,” LOHS Principal Cindy Schubert says.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Students line the halls and pack the stairwell to give retiring health teacher Susan Branam a proper sendoff on the last day of the first semester.

Ricky Korach, former Superintendent Bill Korach’s wife, gave 46 years to LOHS, and her résumé includes no other schools. But that’s rare. Branam has outlasted most of her colleagues, even retired LOHS physical education teacher Diana Lavender, who logged 32 years with the district.

“The family atmosphere here, it’s second to none,” Lavender says. She says Branam embodies everything that the district stands for, including high expectations and strong principles.

In addition to 14 years at LOHS, Branam also taught at Bryant and Palisades elementary schools and Lakeridge Junior High (Waluga at the time). In all the time she has devoted to LOSD, she has affected hundreds of students’ lives, as a teacher and a coach.

LOHS senior and varsity swimmer Jeske Paanakker says Branam is important to her, and she spends time with her when she just needs a break from the world.

“She’s more personal and tries to create an added personal connection with you rather than just coach you,” Paanakker says.

She says one thing she appreciates is that Branam always remembers to honor junior varsity swimmers, too, when she’s handing out accolades and jelly beans to celebrate accomplishments at a meet.

“She’s so enthusiastic,” says Ryan Sklar, captain of the boys varsity swim team. “She’ll want to congratulate every single person after swim meets.”

Mike Branam, Susan Branam’s husband of 34 years and co-head coach of the LOHS swim team, says young people are drawn to her.

“Students run to her and then walk away,” he says. “A lot of times kids walk to their teachers and run away.”

This respect and magnetism derives from how Susan Branam relates to students, he explains.REVIEW PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Susan Branam plans to travel and spend time with her family in her retirement.

“She tells kids exactly what they should be doing,” Mike Branam says. “She has a lot of sincerity, and if you’re doing something wrong, she’ll tell you, and she doesn’t expect it to happen again.”

He adds she’s also a gifted coach who “could teach rocks to float.” In the past four years, the boys swim team has never lost a meet, and the girls team has only lost one. Her tennis team has never lost a match in eight years, except at the state level, and that’s just the kids who qualify for state, Mike Branam says.

As a spouse, she puts a smile on his face.

“She makes me laugh,” Mike Branam says. “It’s hard to make me laugh. I can make everybody else laugh.”

Now that she’s retiring, Susan Branam plans to spend more time with her husband; their beloved 7-year-old dog, Jackson; and their children, 28-year-old daughter Katie DiPietro of Lake Oswego, a recently married nurse at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, and 27-year-old son Grant Branam, who is attending medical school at Western University of Health Sciences.

Susan Branam’s mother passed away earlier this month, which has been difficult, so she wants more time to look after her father. She’d also like to travel to Italy and Iceland, and enjoy a road trip visiting the many national parks.

“There’s a lot of things to choose from, that’s for sure,” she says.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com
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