A School-Within-a-School Harnessing the Power of Dreams with Susan Thompson
May 12, 2020
Susan Thompson on EducationEvolution with Dr. Maureen O'Shaughnessy

Sometimes our call into education is as simple as a voice that says, “Be a teacher.” That was the case with Susan Thompson, academic dean at University High School in Tolleson, Arizona, a highly sought after school-within-a-school. Though she’s retiring at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, she’s still in the trenches and working with kids daily. The way she works so hard to buck the status quo of the traditional education model is inspiring!

In this episode, Susan offers an overview of how University High went from a school to get students who were falling behind ready for college to a highly sought after, rigorous option for diverse and motivated students. In fact, the school regularly ranks on the US News and World Report’s list of top high schools nationally while primarily enrolling students from the immediate community (rather than cherry-picking only high achievers).

After the interview, I provide a synthesis of Susan’s magic wand wish, and how it can help refill the cups of our teachers and students alike. I also offer a little challenge at the end that I’d love to discuss with each and every one of you…How can we each start with fascination?

About Susan Thompson

Susan Thompson has had a 30-year career in education, teaching theater, AP History, gifted programs and serving as a librarian and now a principal/academic dean.

She has worked for AZ Commission of the Arts instructing arts based learning workshops all over the state of AZ.

Susan has also taught for a variety of universities, coached cross country and was the Arizona State Thespian Director for 10 years.

Susan resides in a small historic home in downtown Phoenix, where she serves her community as president of Midtown Neighborhood Association and lives with her 1 year old chiweenie, Frida.

Jump Through the Conversation

[1:38] University High’s roots
[2:27] University High’s inspiration, Stand and Deliver
[4:35] University High now
[6:36] Benefits of building relationships with parents
[8:48] How University High graduates maintain such a high retention rate in college
[9:29] Rigor & why the worst thing we can say is “you’re so smart”
[11:58] Why Susan was called into education and her journey to where she is now
[15:27] Why Susan thinks a school yearbooks is a must-buy for new teachers
[17:03] Susan’s magic wand wish for teachers
[22:13] Maureen’s unpacking of the conversation with Susan
[23:50] Synthesis of Susan’s magic wand wish

Links and Resources

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to subscribe on Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or search for us on your favorite podcast app. If you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share what you liked about the show.

Latest Episodes

Creating Equity to Improve Education with Carlon Howard

Imagine being at a school where 80% of the students look like you…but you’re the only one like you who is in the honors and advanced classes. That’s where this week’s guest, Carlon Howard, found himself as he readied to graduate from high school. And that experience...

What Your Teachers Need and Can’t Tell You with Melina Palmer

You have to make so many decisions every day as an educator or educational leader. It’s overwhelming and enough to drive you to burnout. Add to that the change that happens seemingly every minute in the classroom or the office. We can’t train on how to manage our...

Latest Blog Posts

Coming soon!


Coming soon!


Listen to Education Evolution on Apple Podcasts
Listen to Education Evolution on Spotify
Listen to Education Evolution on Stitcher
Listen on Google Play Music

Related Posts

Sign Up for Podcast Announcements
and Get our Free Guide:
Five Interdependent Hacks to Lead the Creation of a Learner-Centered Culture!

By providing your email address you are agreeing to receive email communications from Education Evolution.
You can unsubscribe at any time.