Local takes back-to-basics approach to teaching

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 25, 2011

By Baileigh Rebowe


LAPLACE – Suzanne Ladner has been teaching for more than 21 years now. Elementary school, high school, special education — it never mattered to her as long as she was pushing someone to learn, advance and succeed.

Teaching children to love to learn is what Ladner still strives to do on a daily basis at her new job.

She recently launched a day care-learning center in LaPlace, Lil’ Saints, where one-year-olds, 8-year-olds and all ages in between are prospering for the summer.

She built her day care around old-fashioned teaching methods and finds herself passing experiences, lessons and values from when she was a little girl on to her students.

She thinks the pledge is important, classic novels should be required reading and children need to be rocked, sang to, danced with and taught how to develop a love for school.

Children will not succeed unless they are taught to love school and learning, according to her.

Ladner emphasizes that learning does not begin the first day of “real school” or in kindergarten. Learning happens way before then.

“Early years are the most important years,” said Ladner. “Learning starts as soon as that little baby opens his or her eyes for the first time and looks around.”

Ladner cannot understand how some children fail kindergarten.

“I firmly believe if a child loves to go school, he will learn. I want my students to want an education and have faith that they can do it all. It’s simple to make children from birth love learning,” said Ladner.

She said children need to always be thinking, to start recognizing shapes and structures and to hear stories about civics and American history from a young age.

Some of her enthusiasm for learning can be credited to Dr. Alton Ochsner, founder of Ochsner Health Medical Center. She worked as an operating room technician when she was in her 20s, and Alton, 83 years old then, was her boss. He challenged her work, checked up on her and pushed her to be passionate at whatever she was doing.

“He’d take my cigarettes out of my lab coat every morning and ask to speak with me in his office. How blessed I was to have known such a man,” said Ladner.

She left the center shortly after and went back to school to teach.

According to her, many people have influenced her life: Sister Mary Edmond — “old iron side” at her primary school, her mother (also a teacher) and other supporters who always told her to go with her passion no matter how old she was.

“Some people say to me, ‘You should be retired. You should be at home.’ I tell them, ‘And doing what?’” said Ladner. “Lil’ Saints is my dream.”

Ladner realized her dream of opening a day care after being very sick and hospitalized for a few months. She said God gave her the courage to move forward.

If in the future she can help one child foster a love of learning, it will all be worth her time, according to Ladner.

“We continue to learn until we return to glory. If we don’t, we waste years of short precious lives on Earth,” said Ladner. “I want to leave a positive mark here and be someone who helped children become all they could be.”