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Longtime Paly history teacher Suzan Stewart dies at 72

Original post made on Mar 5, 2013

Suzan Stewart, who taught history and social studies to generations of Palo Alto students, died March 3 after battling cancer. She was 72. She was passionate about making history and government come alive for students.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 8:50 AM

Comments (14)

Posted by Mac Clayton, a resident of Community Center
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

Suzie was a force of nature, and a wonderful friend. She will be missed.


Posted by Paly Alum, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:21 am

So sad. Ms. Stewart was a wonderfully, kind, caring, and generous person who worked with my son to help him with history. Although we paid her, she didn't even care about payment. She was tutoring someone else for free. Her objective was to help students succeed.


Posted by Carolyn Tucher, a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 10:39 am

What a bright spirit! Suzi made a difference - for individual students, in the schools where she taught and in the broader community. Her example spoke volumes. I count myself lucky to have had her as a friend.


Posted by Jordana Freeman, a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:06 am

My heart hurts. Suzie was a wonderful woman, teacher and mother. She was a neighbor, one of my childhood best friend's mother, and also my teacher at Paly. She had a passion for helping children. She will be greatly missed.


Posted by Alice Smith, a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:09 am

A friend for 40 years and I never had an angry thought about her. Brave in her illness, progressive in her values, gentle and caring. A loss to all of us.


Posted by Carol, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:24 am

Which years did she teach at Paly?


Posted by Jeanie Smith, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 5, 2013 at 11:32 am

One of my daughter's favorite teachers at Paly-- a true example of excellence in our field, who leaves a legacy of legions of well-educated students. Sorry to hear of her passing-- condolences to her family...


Posted by anonymous, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 5, 2013 at 12:23 pm

I had a brief contact when I donated to something and she promptly sent thanks. I didn't know her or have other contact but it was evident she had a fine reputation. I was impressed with her professionalism and courtesy. I also send condolences to her family.


Posted by Cindy Costell, a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 12:42 pm

We met in college at age 19. In 1964, Suzie convinced me to come teach at Terman instead of in the Sequoia district. We were PAUSD buddies for decades and were involved together in the Children's Theatre, where our kids were active. I can't imagine life in this town without Suzie. Rest well, dear friend. Love to Amy and to David.


Posted by Jay, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm

A lovely, kind, generous, lady. She was tireless working with Palo Alto Children's Theatre to get the privately financed Magic Castle built. Both my children were blessed to be taught by her at Paly. She was the kind of teacher that students looked back later and thanked for all the work she put into their development. A loss to all of us.


Posted by John Monroe, a resident of Southgate
on Mar 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Mrs. Stewart was an excellent government teacher, but I'll always remember her most as coach of the Mock Trial team during my high school years (1987-1991). She and Jim both devoted huge amounts of time to the job, and achieved amazing results. One of the years I was on the team, we made it all the way to nationals.

What impressed me most about her was her attitude. She always wanted us to do our best, and would do whatever it took to help us get to that point, but she never came across as "competitive" in the conventional way. For a high-school teacher in a "coach-like" position, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to maintain that kind of equanimity, particularly given the hours upon hours she and Jim both devoted to working with us, not only after school, but at night -- without any kind of financial reward.

There were several times in competition when it seemed as if we were working against a pretty strong "anti-Palo Alto rich kid" bias, and therefore didn't place as well as it felt like we ought to have. Rather than getting angry, or reinforcing our teenaged feelings of grievance, she encouraged us to be the best possible sports, to take everything in stride, and to focus on the satisfaction of doing the best *we* could do, regardless of what the final score might end up being. She never conveyed this by coming out and saying anything; instead, as I remember, she would get a particular slightly distant expression on her face -- a kind of indulgent, bemused, intelligent smile, which basically said "I see why you're so mad, and sympathize, but really, the key thing is to remember what is most important -- and that's *not* beating everyone else."

For me, the message that expression conveyed was the most powerful lesson she taught, and I've been doing my best to live up to her example ever since.


Posted by Sara Williams-Curran, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 6, 2013 at 8:29 pm

Suzie was the most incredible mother to one of my dearest life-long friends, Amy. Suzie's compassion and zest for life made her stand high above the rest. Suzie was incredibly bright and witty yet modest and never boastful. She always made me feel right at home even during the most challenging teenage years. Suzie....you will be deeply, deeply missed by so many. xo


Posted by Amy Stewart DiBianca, a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 8, 2013 at 10:47 am

We are so grateful for all your kind comments about my mother. She was indeed one of a kind. We were joined at the hip for so many days of my life, and I will miss her terribly. But I know her legacy will be in the students she poured her heart and soul into, as well as in her grandchildren she so adored.


Posted by Rob Tanner, a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

All of the above posters have summed up her impact: compassion, absolute devotion to her students, a real fire for social justice and achievement, and most of all a force of nature in and out of the classroom. Mrs. Stewart was easily one of my favorite teachers at Paly, and made an enormous impression on me during my time on the Mock Trial team (1991-1993). Both she and her husband spent countless hours with us, not just teaching us how to win at Mock Trial (which we did!), but more importantly teaching us how to think logically.

I already found government and social studies fun and interesting before Mrs. Stewart's class, but saw how much she inspired other students who hadn't really given civics a thought before. I never heard anyone say even the slightest negative comment about her, which in a high school environment is exceedingly rare.

I always got the impression that she was a teacher mostly because she just loved being around students and making a positive impression on them. It was certainly not for any financial or personal gain! I'm guessing if she had actually spread her salary out against the hours per week she actually worked both in and out of the classrom, it probably wouldn't have even been minimum wage. She was really a hero to so many of my fellow classmates and friends at Paly, and I know she made a tangible impact on hundreds of students' lives.

My deepest condolences to her family.


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