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'Teacher Susie' leaves lasting impression of kindness and care on students

After years of running Tigard Playschool, Susie Long-Clark touched the lives of hundreds of children

by: SARA WILKISON - Susie Long-Clark, who served as director of the Tigard Playschool for more than two decades, died last week after battling pancreatic cancer. Her memorial service is planned for July 26 at Tigard United Methodist Church.To her sisters, Susan Long-Clark was the dorky older sister with a passion for children. But to the students at Tigard Playschool on Southwest Walnut Place, the woman known as “Teacher Susie” left a lasting impression.

The school's longtime former leader of died last week after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Long-Clark, who died July 6, is best known as the longtime director of the Tigard Playschool, a cooperative preschool located on the campus of Tigard United Methodist Church, though it has no affiliation with the congregation.

The preschool has been a nurturing haven for young students for 56 years. Half of those years under Long-Clark’s tutelage.

Long-Clark joined the preschool team in 1989 and was named National Preschool Teacher of the Year in 1993. She served as the school's director until February 2013, when she stepped away from the school for health reasons.

Remberance planned

A public celebration of Long-Clark’s life is schedule for Saturday, July 26, at 11:11 a.m. at Tigard United Methodist Church, 9845 S.W. Walnut Place.

"There is a special meaning of the 11:11 time," her sister Kelly Knight said. "Susie always told her sons that when the clock says 11:11, 'I am thinking of you.'"

Kelly Knight, Long-Clark’s sister, said her jovial nature was what made her such a successful teacher. “She told me so many times that she was so sorry that we didn’t spend more time together because she was so busy working, but then she would stop and say, ‘But I loved it. I loved that preschool,’” Knight said. “That school was really her life and the core of her.”

Wes Taylor, a former pastor at United Methodist, said Long-Clark made a huge impact on the community.

“There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of students who she impacted over the years,” Taylor said. “Some of those kids are adults with kids of their own now.”

Long-Clark made it look easy, Taylor said.

“She had a teacher’s heart,” Taylor said. “She was born to be a teacher, and she was great at it. She had the ability to relate to preschoolers on their level. Kids resonate when they are treated with respect and courtesy. She had a smile all the time. She was a warm, caring and gentle soul. She was a fine human being that loved children, and it showed every moment that she was with them.”

by: SARA WILKISON - Susie Long-Clark goes for a high-five with Alex Wilkison, a student at Tigard Playschool. The longtime teacher and school director left the preschool in 2013 for health reasons. She was later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died July 6.

Energy and Spark

Sara Wilkison enrolled her two children in the school seven years ago and said no one in her family will ever forget her children's first teacher.

“We have ‘Teacher Susie-isms’ that we still use to this day,” Wilkison said.

Wilkison and Long-Clark pair started their relationship as teacher and parent, Wilkison said, but the two quickly became close friends.

“She had this energy and spark about her when she was with the kids,” Wilkison said.

Wilkison’s son, Alex, was diagnosed with lymphoma when he was attending the school, and “Teacher Susie” was always there to lend a hand, Wilkison said.

“When he was having his radiation and chemo, she wanted to know more so she could find out what the best way was to take care of him and his educational needs,” she said.

When Alex came back, she made sure the other students understood Alex’s situation and made him feel at home.

“She was an amazing force at that school, and it is so sad that she won’t see the fruits of her labor in my kids growing up,” Wilkison said. “She was a very important part of our family. Not just for their education but in our lives.”

Knight said there was too much to say about Long-Clark than would fit in a newspaper article.

“There is just so much to say,” Knight said. “She was a really special person. Right up until she passed away, she was living life to the fullest. When she spent time with people, she never wanted them to be sad. She didn’t allow that. She always wanted to do things, and she was concerned that everyone else was OK. She was very strong and upbeat about the whole thing.

“I never realized how strong she was — she stayed strong through all of this,” Knight added.


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