Latin Community Says Goodbye to Ms. Callis

Dean of Community Learning Suzanne Callis left Latin at the end of last school year and has proved difficult to replace.

Dean of Community Learning Suzanne Callis left Latin at the end of last school year and has proved difficult to replace.

Suzanne Callis, whose roles at Latin extend from teaching English in the Upper School to serving as Dean of Community Learning and also Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Coordinator, has announced that she will be departing Latin at the end of the school year.

Ms. Callis has been a valued Latin community member for almost a decade, arriving in 2015 as an English teacher and ultimately taking on multiple roles serving students and the greater Latin community. Heading back East with her family to Providence, Rhode Island, Ms. Callis’ departure “is a huge loss to our Upper School community,” Upper School Dean Bridget Hennessy said.

Ms. Callis initially taught for seven years on the East Coast before moving to Chicago to work at Latin. “When I got here, I was very much involved in the community from the start,” she said.

First having served in the administration as an Associate Dean, Ms. Callis jumped right into the role of the Dean of Community Learning as soon as the position was created. “In this community role, that was the biggest way that Latin ever trusted me—to give me a chance to take these things I had worked on in my other schools and kind of grew to be able to work on here,” Ms. Callis said.

Her contributions to Latin have not gone unnoticed. Ellie Anderson, a sophomore and grade representative, has worked closely with Ms. Callis on numerous occasions. “Ms. Callis is a tremendous mentor to many student leaders, including members of the student government,” Ellie said. “I value her support and guidance on all our activities.”

Ms. Callis has been instrumental in making the Latin community more comfortable for many students. “Even though I was new, Ms. Callis was very welcoming, and her liveliness is contagious,” freshman Ari Fayne said. “She made my transition to Latin that much easier.”

Latin faculty also will be impacted by Ms. Callis’s departure. Upper School Interim Director and Improv teacher Nick Baer wrote in an email to The Forum, “[Ms. Callis] has been a tremendous colleague over the years and a consistent advocate for all students, particularly those who don’t always feel comfortable speaking for themselves. She has a knack for making people see things from a different perspective (especially me!), and I have always valued that immensely. I will miss her.”

Echoing Mr. Baer, Ms. Hennessy said, “She obviously does a lot of ‘seen’ work, but she also does a lot of ‘unseen’ work, including assisting students, teachers, families, and support staff to ensure that Latin’s scholastic and community programming is thoughtful, inclusive, and sustainable.”

Reflecting on her time at Latin, Ms. Callis said, “I am going to miss the students. Particularly, when you all invest in something and get really excited about something, that energy is electric.”

While the Latin community may lose some spark with her departure, the community at large will benefit from the lessons Ms. Callis has offered. “I have become a better advocate for students,” she said. “I’ve become a better teacher. I’ve been able to embrace classroom practices that are equitable and student-centered in a way, and that involves Latin trusting its teachers to do those things.”

Ms. Callis now plans to share that energy with others. “I’m still teaching English,” she said. “I’ll still do DEI work within this school that I’m going to and obviously still do some community things, but I won’t be in charge of them.”

Ms. Callis is already nostalgic about the great connections she has made here at Latin. “It’s hard when you find a team of people that you work so well with, and get along with at the same time,” she said. “It’s hard to walk away from that, because you don’t always get that.”

The feeling is mutual. “For me,” Ms. Hennessy said, “Ms. Callis is much more than a colleague who I trust and work well with. She is a friend.”

Not surprisingly, Ms. Callis will use her remaining days at Latin to continue to help students make the most of their time here and navigate a sometimes challenging and competitive environment.

“I don’t want any student to get to the end of Latin and realize that they missed out on the wonderful things that were happening around them—having pride in this place and pride as a Latin student because they were so focused on where Latin would take them,” Ms. Callis said. “There’s a joy to being in high school, and you never get opportunities like this, experiences like this again.”

From coordinating gatherings, student government meetings, and community events, to teaching and fulfilling her multiple additional roles at the school, Ms. Callis will not be easy to replace. Sophomore Andres De Marco asked, “What are we going to do without Ms. Callis? She does everything!”

Indeed, she does, including imparting much wise advice. “Be a good human for you, but also be a good human in this larger community,” she said. “Because even the small little things add up and matter. They build in a way, when you’re in such a tight-knit community, that when you’re not a good human, your community feels it.”