After Punahou announced Susie Cooling ’72 Field’s retirement on Facebook and Instagram, the posts immediately went viral, with hundreds of alumni and students spanning generations liking and commenting about the beloved, 45-year veteran math teacher.
Nearly 2,800 people liked the posts, while 230 commented with visceral memories about the impact Field had on them personally while they were students and long after.
“Hands down my favorite math teacher EVER. I was such an average student, at best, but you made me feel like I could solve anything. I’ll never forget the big smile, warm heart and pompoms for cheering us on,” wrote Paul Bunda ’89.
“Thank you for everything, Mrs. Field!” Karen Chang ’11 commented. “You’re what makes Punahou great.”
While many former students recall being supported and empowered by Field, some credit her for leading them to their life callings.
“I started behind in math and science at Punahou, but Mrs. Field was one of the primary reasons I went into engineering, because math wasn’t scary anymore,” wrote Chris Hamilton ’90.
“Sophomore geometry killed me!” said Sarah Spoehr ’84 Jenny. “She was so patient and always made me feel like I could be successful! Hope I instill that in my students!”
Field arrived to teach Academy math at Punahou in 1976, after graduating from Mount Holyoke College. Throughout her more than four decades at the School, she taught just about every course the Academy math department offered along with AP Physics. In 1998, she developed the Team BC approach to teaching AP Calculus BC, which encouraged students to support each other and work together to experience collaboration and negotiation as part of the problem-solving process.
“Mrs. Field was hands down the best teacher I ever had. She taught calculus like it was kindergarten, and I loved her for it,” wrote Mikhail Ponce ’97.
Field also helped develop curriculum and professional development opportunities for fellow teachers. She also served as a Mathematics Department chair and faculty advisor for the National Honor Society and Gratitude Day Committee, among her various roles at the School.
It was the variety of roles and people she worked with that kept her at Punahou so long, and of course, her passion for math, which she says teaches students perseverance and attention to detail, which is helpful for any career.
Field says teaching “suited her heart,” and her favorite experience was when, after helping a student tackle a problem, the student would later tell her, “You believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.” “My opinion of good teaching is that you make a trusting and supportive relationship with the learner and then other things fall into place,” she said. “I hope my legacy is something inside my students – that it made a positive difference in their lives. I’m very proud of our Punahou math department and the work that we do, and I hope the little role I played can keep the fabric of our community strong forever.”
In retirement, Field looks forward to spending time with her husband, John ’72, retired Punahou vice president and treasurer, and their children Sarah Field ’01 McKay; Robby ’03, Charlie ’06 and Jimmy ’09.
Susie Cooling ’72 Field Endowed Financial Aid Fund
Former students, family and friends established this fund in honor of Field to provide support for students at Punahou who qualify for need-based financial aid, and also have an interest in mathematics. Visit punahou.edu/susie-cooling-72-field for more information.
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