New teacher spotlight: Susan Verhaalen
By Layla Hughes
After nearly 20 years of practicing school psychology, Susan Verhaalen has finally found her home at Nation Ford High School, and she’s very excited to be here.
Verhaalen had most recently worked at Rock Hill High School and even before that she worked in Lancaster. Despite years of experience elsewhere, she admits that NFHS is her best job so far.
Verhaalen, as the school psychologist, provides a safe space for students to come to talk about their personal issues, as well as work with her to develop useful skills that allow students to confront these problems head-on.
She also helps NFHS build a better and safer community for those with disabilities by teaching others, “I think it looks like most of all, it’s advocacy for the adults that they work with,” Verhaalen said.
“Sometimes you’ll hear, ‘Oh, you just need to fill in the space’ Whether it’s like ADHD, folks can appear like lazy. And for neurotypical folks, it’s hard to understand people whose brains work differently.
“And so I think just creating or educating the adults that work with the students and helping to create that safe space that they can be themselves and also to help the student know that this is what’s expected… and to help them find their people. Yeah, that’s what’s important. We all need our people.”
She describes helping each student as “solving a puzzle” She approaches each situation logically and with patience.
In her free time, Verhaalen likes to go thrifting. She has a large collection of vintage art, cultural items, and vintage designer handbags. All are collected from Goodwill, estate sales, and yard sales.
She likes to find art from a variety of sources to make her space more unique and creative, “I like to be surrounded by diversity,” Verhaalen said. She also runs an eBay to help support her daughter, Chloe, who goes to school in New York.
To those looking to follow a similar career path, she advises: “… Do it and to keep looking for a supportive school district. And it’s taken me 19 years to find that and probably it’s taken a while and the right people in place here in Fort Mill to make it a supportive environment for me to work here.”