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Beyond the Cave

Beyond the Cave

31 Years and Counting: Mr. Suggs, our Most Veteran Teacher

From 1991 to 2023, Mr. Suggs is the Longest-Standing SHS Teacher
STAFF MEETING. Mr. Suggs, seated in the center, attends a faculty meeting during his first year at Summerville. “Robert Hohn is speaking. Steve Mosley is sitting next to me, Karen Shaw is in front of me. You can see Marlin Ronten and Christy Dwyer behind me” explained Mr. Suggs.

Beyond the Cave (BTC) went on a quest to find the most veteran teacher on campus—who has been here the longest? Who is the true Mr. Summerville? With the retirement of Mr. Watson last spring, Mr. Suggs is now the longest standing teacher at SHS. He began his career here in 1991, making this his thirty-second school year as a Bear. 

Before joining the staff at Summerville, Mr. Suggs originally worked for another district in San Jose, a larger one, and he was an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher.

“I wanted to work at a smaller school. I was teaching ESL in a large school and it was like a thousand kids. The school was changing to a different system where they were going to have school year-round. I did not want to do that. I came up here because it is a smaller school and because I wanted to teach history,” Mr. Suggs stated. 

Suggs, not native to Tuolumne County, moved here for a teaching position at Summerville High. 

“I was hired by a guy named Mr. Bailey. He was the principal and superintendent. Back then, the two positions were combined into one. After that the superintendents were Mr. Frost, Mr. Keiter, Mr. Griffith, and now Mr. Merrill.” Mr. Suggs also shared he has worked for eight different principals during his time here. 

Over the 31 years, he has had different teaching assignments and different teaching locales.

“When I was first hired, I was assigned to room 301, which is Ms. Monroe’s (Dieste) room. I was in that room from 1991-95. After that, I was in Mr. Lillie’s room for about 11 years. I moved to my current room in 2005 and have been there ever since.”

Mr. Suggs sings ‘I’m Gonna Love you Forever’ to his wife and newborn daughter, Susie, at the 1994 Talent Show.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Suggs

We all know Mr. Suggs teaches History and is the Yearbook advisor, but many do not know he also taught English, and Economics and Government courses.

Reflecting on Homecoming Week in particular, Mr. Suggs shared a fond memory of Homecoming Week from the 1990s.

“We used to have a bonfire to celebrate Homecoming. That was pretty neat.” 

Naturally, Mr. Suggs has witnessed some changes over the years. The largest change he witnessed was the addition of the Connections Academy charter school. 

 “Things were very different when I first got here. The kids were more rural and there was no academy [Connections Visual and Performing Arts Academy]. It was very oriented towards sports, more like Sonora High School. The kids were more similar, there was not so much division.”

The Connections Academy, founded in 2002, was the most radical change Mr. Suggs has seen on campus. 

Over 31 years, Mr. Suggs has no doubt worked with many teachers here on campus and a part of him wishes there was still the camaraderie among teachers like it used to be. 

“They used to have all of the teachers eat up here [the staff room] and they used to feed us. That was a good thing. We paid for it, but the cafeteria provided lunch and all the teachers were there. That was just what you did. We’ve tried to do that since, it just has never caught on.”

Regardless of a joint staff-lunch, many teachers on campus have very positive things to say about their colleague, Mr. Suggs. 

“I thoroughly enjoy working with Mr. Suggs. I appreciate his willingness to be involved in everything the students do, and the great rapport he has with the students” stated English teacher, Mrs. Caldera.

Mr. Suggs is very involved with the students of Summerville. He is often found at just about every student event, sporting event, drama performance, or Rally, right in the action taking photos. 

He wants to capture all that Summerville is and takes pride in posting photos to his Instagram. 

“My goal with the Instagram posting is to recognize as many kids as possible that may not get into the yearbook” stated Mr. Suggs. 

In addition to attending events and being a vital member of our Summerville community, Mr. Suggs fosters a sense of community in his classroom as well, often offering students’ snacks, waters, the sought-after Kirkland granola bars, and the much-anticipated potato-bar on Fridays during Football season. The potatoes are reserved for football players and cheerleaders first, and then all other students are welcome to join-in. 

“We started that back about seven or eight years ago, and I say ‘we’ because my wife does all of the work. We have figured out a system to cook about 60 pounds of potatoes in about 10 minutes,” shared Mr. Suggs. 

Teachers and students alike respect Mr. Suggs for building a community in his classroom. Whether students bond over his love for Disney, football, yearbook, potatoes or prayers, Mr. Suggs creates an inviting atmosphere for all.

Lucca Peterson, kindly refers to Mr. Suggs as “Sister Muggs,” a joke Mr. Suggs and he share. 

“Sister Muggs gives the best snacks. I go to his room daily to get fruit snacks and a lollipop, and sometimes a water,” stated Peterson. He continued, “And he calls me ‘squirrel.’”

Third-year yearbook student and senior, Sam Busch shares his sentiments about Mr. Suggs.

“I love Suggs with a burning passion.” 

When asked what it was like to watch his friends retire, he certainly chuckled at the thought.

“It’s weird to be the oldest because when I started here, I was the  youngest.” 

Mr. Watson, the former most-veteran teacher, preceded Mr. Suggs by four years.

Mr. Suggs is an important  part of Summerville, like all staff, but he deserves special recognition for his commitment and all that he does for our students. 

Mr. Suggs, photographed in his classroom in the spring of 2021.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Suggs


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Peyton Skinner
Peyton Skinner, Photo Editor
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Comments (3)

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  • C

    Chris HembreeOct 23, 2023 at 11:22 am

    This is a great article. I love that our BTC crew are doing their best to represent people who deserve recognition on this campus. Keep it up guys!!!

  • O

    Orlando LopezOct 2, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    I think it’s crazy how long Mr. Suggs has been here and is still here. I wonder what it truly feels like to have to get accustomed to so many new and different co-workers throughout a 31 year span. I also think it must be hard seeing all your friends leave you after working with them for so long. The final thing I wonder about is how different everything is from back then to now; ranging from the technology, to the new classes, to how the students act, dress, and interact with one another. I wish I could just see how it was when he first started to compare the differences.

  • R

    rockyOct 2, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    this is a great article, i really appreciate the chance to get to learn more about the wonderful Mr.Suggs. I’m super excited for all the articles to come.