She is an unfailingly kind and fiercely loyal champion of students. But don’t expect her to put up with any nonsense.
Whether Suzanne Hales is getting after students for coming late to school or consoling them with words of compassion, the Head Secretary at Diamond Ridge High makes it known how much she cares.
“Suzanne is the emotional heart of our school. Each student feels like her favorite by the caring she shows them: greeting students personally and enthusiastically, being firm or kind with them as the situation warrants, and challenging them to do their best,” says Diamond Ridge Principal Amy Boettger. “She even helps tutor students who need that extra boost.”
For all the “other duties as assigned” she shoulders to make Diamond Ridge shine, Hales was recognized at a surprise assembly by the Utah Governor’s Office with the 2022-2023 U-RISE Award. It’s an honor reserved for up to two outstanding Education Support Professionals in Utah annually. Hales will represent the state as a nominee for the U.S. Department of Education’s national RISE award.
Research shows it takes one caring adult to motivate at-risk students to stay in school. At Diamond Ridge, Canyons District’s alternative high school, there are a lot of caring adults committed to helping students succeed. Hales is one of them.
As Diamond Ridge’s sole administrative assistant, she deftly manages the Main Office, school finances, and student records. “She wears a lot of hats in our school and makes them all look good,” says one of the school’s teachers, Wendy Quigley.
Hales pays meticulous attention to the details out of a sense of duty to the students her school serves. She feels responsible for the adults, too.
It’s not uncommon for staff and faculty to find on their desks impeccably handwritten notes of encouragement, which they recognize as coming from Hales because of her “legendary penmanship,” Quigley says.
Every student who completes all the credits needed to graduate receives a “Suzanne cheer.”
Meanwhile, quietly behind the scenes, she’s working to secure resources and supports for students — anything they need, from bus passes to eyeglasses — while making sure the school is stocked with the supplies teachers need to do their jobs.
“In casual conversation she might jokingly suggest that her commitment is due to some defect in her character that doesn’t allow her to let things go. As her former supervisor, and as a friend, I know that Suzanne is driven by a strong desire to do what is right, and doing her best work is what she considers to be right,” wrote a former colleague in a letter nominating Hales for the U-RISE award.
Not one to seek the limelight, Hales succinctly said a few words of thanks to friends and colleagues who gathered Thursday at the school to honor her. Before long, she was back at her desk tackling the tasks of the day.
And, like they so often are, students could been seen walking past her office and waiting for an opening to chat, a window of “Suzanne time” to brighten their day.