SUSAN PRITCHARD, Ph.D.
Why she’s an influencer: Pritchard calls herself the Johnny Appleseed of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), and it’s true she’s constantly boiling over with science enthusiasm. Most recently, it has paid off with Project Lead the Way – a series of STEM electives at the middle school – and a partnership with Cal Poly Pomona, whose faculty and students work with students in STEM learning, including a specialized focus on girls and minorities. This school year is especially exciting for the teacher because six of her students are competing in a national sustainability contest called the Lexus Eco Challenge. And it wouldn’t have happened had Pritchard not prodded her classes to do the contest. The group of six girls, dubbed the Water Guardians, entered and won $10,000 for its water conservation plans. That puts the group in the running for the grand prize of $30,000.
Biggest challenge: “I was just talking to one parent today that has four part-time jobs and yet he has time to come in and talk to me so I can help his son. I think that’s the biggest challenge – finding ways to meet parents.”
Work philosophy: “I tell my students this mantra: ‘It doesn’t get easier. You get better.’ I tell the students that so much that they can end the mantra. I also tell them, ‘You can’t wish for it; you have to work for it.’”
Inspiration: “I would think the biggest inspiration for me were my parents. They instilled a lifetime of hard work. Nothing comes easy. My father ... he was the auditor for the Alaska Pipeline ... My mom never gave up. One of the things she helped me tremendously with is we didn’t have a lot of money but there’s always something out there we can do in the community. I can tell you every inch of the arboretum because that’s where we hung out …”
Can’t do without: “My husband.My family.My friends.My dogs.My students.There’s lots of things I can’t live without. And dare say, I can’t live without chocolate.”
What’s next?: “Right now, we’re hoping the Water Guardians get accepted to go for the finals. They’ve never stopped. Even if they don’t go to the finals, they’ll reach their goal, I believe.”
– Joanna Clay