Trumbull's assistant superintendent for teaching has an eye on inclusion



Contributed /

TRUMBULL — Of the 40 applicants to be Trumbull’s new assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, Susan Iwanicki was a natural pick, district officials said.

After all, she has years of experience teaching, and is currently the instruction director at a place called LEARN.

LEARN is an Old Lyme-based regional education center, similar to Trumbull-based Cooperative Educational Service.

“She had building leadership experience as a principal and supervisory experience at the district level,” said Trumbull schools Superintendent Martin Semmel. “In her current role with LEARN, a big part is the ability to work with different districts and grade levels.

And, Semmel said, strengthening the Trumbull school’s work with English language learners would be a priority when Iwanicki starts her new role Jan. 19.

And, he said, she is uniquely suited to the role. Although she was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Connecticut, Iwanicki brings a different perspective in relating to students who could struggle with language.

“I spent some time teaching at the British Royal School in Santiago, Chile, where I was the only native English speaker in the building,” Iwanicki said last week. “And our goal was for the students to graduate as fluent English speakers. And they did.”

Learning was mutual, she said. Having studied French in high school and college, Iwanicki had to take a crash course in Spanish herself. Essentially, she became a Spanish learner teaching English learners.

“I’ve felt first-hand what it’s like to not speak the language,” she said. “But now, with that experience, I’m really happy that I can help families that can have a hard time. Sometimes it just takes me asking, ‘Would you prefer if I spoke Spanish?’ and all of a sudden it’s so much easier.”

Iwanicki said she was excited to become part of Trumbull schools because the town has a history of academic achievement and a commitment to student learning. The district also has high expectations, she said.

But Iwanicki is used to academic expectations. Her father was a UConn professor and her mother a school principal. Growing up in Storrs, academics was a way of life.

After graduating from E. O. Smith High School, which was established by UConn, she then stayed in town to earn her bachelors degree before earning her post-graduate degrees at Central Connecticut State.

Professionally, Iwanicki began her career as an English teacher at Norwich Free Academy before teaching in Chile and Ecuador. She later revised the curriculum for the Bristol schools before accepting the role as principal of the Regional Multi-Cultural Magnet School, where she oversaw the school’s certification to International Baccalaureate standards.

Among other things, the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate organization aims to create students who are “inquirers, thinkers, communicators, risk takers, knowledgeable, principled, caring, open-minded, well-balanced and reflective.”

The program also requires students to learn a second language.

Following her time as a principal, Iwanicki was promoted to the LEARN central office, where she has developed and managed the curriculum at seven magnet schools and served as a consultant to LEARN’s 24 member districts as a curriculum writer and developer, she said.

Note — An earlier version of this story referred to Iwanicki as a new assistant principal.