Honoring Our 2023 Retirees: Mrs. Susan Dorkings


Joy Song

“I wanted to be a teacher from when I was a very little kid. My girlfriend and I used to play school all the time, and I couldn’t think of doing anything else.” Mrs. Susan Dorkings—a founder of the Study Center and Head of the ENL Department—is retiring after 40 years of teaching.

While Mrs. Dorkings always wanted to be a teacher, she didn’t know exactly what she wanted to teach. She began teaching middle school classes and then classes at Nassau Community College, both of which she “loved.” In 1996, Mrs. Dorkings found herself beginning a new journey in her 40s as a high school teacher. She describes how coming to South High School was initially “a challenge because I had never taught in a high school before. But I quickly learned to love it. I couldn’t ask to be at a better place.” 

The South High administration “liked the fact that [Mrs. Dorkings] had experience teaching at a college” because she was familiar with the skills South High graduates would need to be successful in college. So Mrs. Dorkings was hired to create a study center, a district effort to demonstrate the support of “the goals of all students, especially those who struggle in some of their classes.” During the next few years, she worked closely with the principal at the time, Mr. Randy Ross. “For the both of us, [the study center] was just a vision we had and were very excited about.” She recounts the exciting memories of  “working as a team with the principal, and the first couple of teachers that came on board, to make that vision a reality. It is my retirement wish that our Study Center program will continue to thrive.” 

 Her favorite part about being a teacher has been “giving that support so students can do the best work they can and letting the students know they can do it.” On the flipside, she’s also “learned as much from my students as they will ever learn from me.” Having served as chairperson of both the Study Center and ENL departments, Mrs. Dorkings has always been “inspired by her students.” She recognizes how difficult it is for a teenager to “come to a new country, a new school, and not speak the language.” Beyond the classes, they are simultaneously facing “all the challenges of any high school student.” Yet when faced with an obstacle, Mrs. Dorkings is consistently “amazed by the students’ resilience, their hard work, and their sense of humor even when things are so difficult.” If there’s any message she wants to leave high schoolers, it’s that you should “believe in yourselves. You can do it, ask for help if you need it, but know you can do it.”

Looking back, being a teacher has come with two unexpected bonuses. Firstly, her younger self could never have predicted how she would find her “best friends” with the people she worked with, some of whom have already retired, and some who are still working. “My colleagues—off the chart,” Mrs. Dorkings says. And secondly, the fact that her daughter (Ms. Dorkings) works at South High too is the “icing on the cake.” 

With retirement a few weeks away, Mrs. Dorkings has a good sense of how her time will be spent. She’ll start with a trip to Switzerland and Italy, hoping to “do a lot of walking on different trails” with her husband. In terms of hobbies, she has reading, mahjong, pickleball, and biking. Most importantly, since her grandchildren are split between New York and North Carolina, she will definitely be “traveling back and forth so that I can spend as much time with my grandkids as I possibly can.” Family—and a gut feeling—were the main reasons she concluded this year was the right time to retire.  

Her decision to retire was not easy, and she got a little “weepy” at the thought of “leaving a job that I absolutely loved.” However, Mrs. Dorkings was reassured by a piece of advice she received: “Don’t look at what you’re leaving, look at what you’re moving toward.” 

Although she can’t wait to spend more time with her “cute and fun” grandkids, Mrs. Dorkings is forever grateful to have spent the last 27 years at “the perfect place” for her, and she will never forget the “tremendous amount of joy” she felt at South High School.