GREENFIELD — Those who know Susan Nichter best say she is truly the children’s champion.
And when she retires at the end of the school year after 24 years as a school social worker, the Greenfield-Central School Corporation won’t be the same.
Nichter, whose retirement was approved at Monday’s G-C School Board meeting, came to the district in 1990 after eight years with the Division of Families and Children (now called Child Protective Services).
Today, she splits her time between Harris and Eden elementary schools, where she serves as a liaison between the schools and the families they serve.
She is also well-connected to community resources, expertly guiding families to those who can help them in any way the schools cannot.
Nichter said she was drawn to working with children because of the ability it gave her to impact their futures.
“To know that if I can help a child or a family to get connected with a community resource or in some way help them to deal with whatever stressors are in their life … then that’s my mission,” Nichter said.
Since Nichter joined the G-C family, she has gained a reputation as a dedicated child advocate, often going beyond the call of duty to make sure her students’ needs are met.
Harris Elementary School Principal Jan Kehrt said Nichter has been an invaluable asset over the years to the students and staff at Harris.
Kehrt described Nichter’s approach to her work as a passion, not a job. Her commitment to serving G-C families has not gone unnoticed.
“On a daily basis, she goes the extra mile for students,” Kehrt said. “She’s loved by community, staff, students.”
As the school social worker, Nichter often helps students through some of the roughest times in their lives, said Eden Principal Joey Johnson.
She is uniquely skilled at helping children process grief, he added.
It is a talent that has aided not only students suffering the loss of a loved one but teachers and staff as well.
“She helps whole buildings,” Johnson said.
Nichter has spearheaded grief seminars, events open not only to G-C students but the community at large.
She is dedicated to making sure those around her always have the best information for dealing with difficult circumstances, Johnson said.
Nichter said she strives to not only teach her students but to learn from them as they navigate life’s difficulties.
Sometimes, the thanks she gets for her efforts comes years later.
She recently attended the funeral of a student’s mother. The boy she had worked with as a child at Eden is now in his 30s, but he recognized her immediately and was touched she felt moved to attend the service and support him.
Moments like those make Nichter realize she chose the right profession.
“I know along the way, I know that what social workers do … matters,” she said. “It matters to families and matters to kids.”
Nichter said the decision to retire was not one she came to lightly, but she felt moved to spend more time caring for her parents, who live in Plymouth, Ind.
Still, leaving behind G-C’s team of social workers and the children they connect with each day will be difficult, she said.
“I’m going to miss it all, I really am, but I know in my heart that this is the right time for me to do this,” she said.
G-C Superintendent Linda Gellert, who is also retiring this year, said Nichter will leave big shoes to fill.
“Susan is an advocate and fierce protector of the students in her charge and will certainly be missed as a part of our day-to-day family at Greenfield-Central,” Gellert wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter. “She certainly has been a great resource to our students and their families.”