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Cinco Ranch teacher a finalist in Live with Kelly and Michael's top teacher search

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A special needs teacher in Katy may be tops in the country. Suzette Steward, a teacher at Cinco Ranch Junior High, has been named a finalist for top teacher on the daytime TV show 'Live with Kelly and Michael.'

Gabe Hoffman is an eighth grader in Cinco Ranch Junior High's 'Children with Autism' program. Gabe is not talkative, but Suzette, his teacher, recently discovered he had an unbelievable hidden talent -- something no one else knew about. His ability to draw things he has seen purely from memory is uncanny.

Now the classroom proudly displays freehand drawings of Disney movies title screens, Gabe's favorite works of art.

Suzette's joy comes from seeing students like Gabe shine.

"I really enjoy getting to see the way their behavior changes, or watching a student start to speak, or watching a student learn new skills they've never been introduced to before, or eating new foods that they don't eat for their families," she said.

Watching her students respond to her, it's clear that she has a gift for zeroing in on each child's talents and drawing them out.

"I want our kids to be able to succeed in life, have something to do, find their interest, find their niche in life," she said.

She was surprised when she was nominated as one of 'Live with Kelly and Michael's' top teachers, and then made it to the top five.

"At first, I felt guilty," she said. "I was like it shouldn't just be me. There are so many other people out there."

But to her coworkers, it was no surprise.

"It's not just a career for her," said teacher's aide Laura Lanstill. "It's her life. She rarely has time for herself so I'm really excited for her to get to go New York."

Suzette's work doesn't end when the bell rings. She runs two camps, one after school and the other in the summer.

"I love being able to give them that activity to exercise, have fun, be outside daily," she said.

She says going to New York to be on television will be difficult because she will miss the kids.

Suzette will be on Live with Kelly and Michael on May 2. The winner will be announced May 6.
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