SIOUX CITY | Susan Jordan pulled out a folder containing drawings, poems and letters from her students, past and present.
Many of these handwritten notes thanked the veteran teacher for all of her hard work.
"This is the reason people become teachers," she said. "We want to make a difference in the lives of our students."
Jordan has been making a difference in the lives of Sioux City Community School District students for the past 33 years. That's why the Morningside Elementary School second grade teacher was selected to be the district's 2018 Teacher of the Year.
Growing up in Akron, Iowa, Jordan said she can't remember a time when she didn't want to become a teacher.
"I was the type of kid who played school at home for fun," she remembered. "That happens when your mom happened to be a teacher."
Jordan explained her mom Donna Lucken gave her an excellent work ethic as well as some important pieces of advice.
"Mom said to always do your best and, whenever possible, kill 'em with kindness," she remembered. "Being a kind person goes a long way when you're a teacher."
That kindness has extended to Jordan's colleagues as well as to her students.
"Everyone knows Mrs. Jordan," Keith Juelfs explained. "(People) will get a smile on their faces whenever you mention her name."
Juelfs, a Morningside fifth grade teacher nominated Jordan to become the district's top teacher as did Gennifer Paul-Fetterman, the school's Title 1/Reading Recovery teacher.
"(Jordan) is the kind of person that brings cheer to anyone at anytime," Paul-Fetterman said.
This included the time Jordan dressed up as an old woman to dramatized the book, "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything," or even "kissed a pig" when her students met their reading goal.
"I don't mind dressing up or hamming things up," she reasoned. "You're trying to connect with students in every way you can. If one way doesn't work, you try something different."
That was true when Jordan started as a special education teacher in the district. It was also the case during the 20 years she spent as a second grade teacher at the former Whittier Elementary School. It has continued in the two years she's been at Morningside, a STEM specialty school.
However, she admitted her real-life family sometimes took second place to her school family.
"A teacher's day doesn't stop at the end of the school day," Jordan said. "Until the time you go to sleep, you're always thinking about the next day of class."
She credits her husband Bill and their three children for being her side. Plus she credits all of her colleagues for their support.
"I think the level of collaboration has increased over the years," Jordan said. "While teachers remain important, we're just part of a team that includes the office staff, the janitorial staff, you name it."
"We all want to be looking out for the kids," she added.
At the end of each school year, Jordan has gotten into the habit of writing notes to her graduating students.
The notes tell the kids how proud their teacher is of their progress.
"I also write that, no matter what, I'll always be there for them and that I'll never forget them," Jordan said.
This sentiment is apparently mutual. She said several of her former students have decided to go into education themselves.
"It's really gratifying to know you've made a difference in somebody's life," Jordan said. "That's still what every teacher wants for their students."