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Special education teacher returns to the classroom after starting her family

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POPLAR GROVE (WREX) — Suzette Muck started thinking about a career in teaching when she was in high school.

She signed up for a kindergarten participation class to get a feel of what it would be like to be in a classroom with young kids all day.

At least, she thought she signed up for it.

It turns out there was a mistake.

"It was supposed to be kindergarten participation and I was put into a special education classroom," Muck said.

"I reported back to my supervisor and said 'There's got to be some mistake, I was supposed to be kindergarten' and she said 'no you weren't' so she just kept me in the special ed placement."

The error ended turned into a happy accident.

Mrs. Muck has now taught for 17 years in the stateline area, currently in her 5th year as a special education teacher at Poplar Grove Elementary School.

Despite the unexpected start on the path to teaching special education, Muck has always had a love for special learners.

"I love to see their enthusiasm," Muck said

"Even through their struggles, they always work to do their best and the little gains sometimes mean so much."

Muck works with very small class sizes with students popping in and out of the classroom to go to other classes.

To work with the constant movement, she keeps her students mobile as well.

"We have so many resources available to us and we are constantly on a hunt to meet their needs in the best way," Muck said.

Whether it's using word blocks to help them learn syllables or substituting a pencil and paper for shaving cream, there's no shortage of activity in Mrs. Muck's classroom to help her kids learn.

"We have a really multi-sensory environment so we do a lot hands on. We do tacto things," Muck said.

"In the middle of winter when it's dreary and boring outside, we play tropical music with a little beach scene in the background so that takes us out of the doldrums of winter."

The care and commitment Mrs. Muck puts in is greatly appreciated by her kids as well as her fellow staff.

"Her attitude is amazing day in and day out," Poplar Grove Elementary principal Heather Walsh said.

"When I go to observe her, I always tell her ' the tone, the way you talk to the kids is so engaging, it makes me want to stay and listen to you talk.'"

Mrs. Muck has a very motherly approach, which is fitting.

She took 12 years off of teaching to focus on her family after giving birth to twins.

Despite all of the time that passed, Mrs. Muck found her way back to the classroom to continue helping kids grow.

"She just wanted to get back into teaching where her passion is and helping out kids and working with families," Walsh said.

"She's phenomenal. Truly I have nothing negative to say because she does a phenomenal job day in and day out."


The word is a popular one from Poplar Grove staff when describing Mrs. Muck.

Phenomenal in her work ethic, her positive attitude, and the relationships she creates with her students.

"I do feel like we have a special bond. With a small group of kids, we're in close quarters, we try to keep it homey and very comfortable," Muck said.

"I do feel they have a very special bond together and with myself as well."

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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