South’s Señora Giffey Retires, Leaving a Legacy of Kindness and Strength

After 28 years in Glenbard South’s classrooms, beloved Spanish teacher Mrs. Suzanne Giffey-Molitor is retiring at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

Sana Muneer, Editor in Chief

After 28 years in Glenbard South’s classrooms, beloved Spanish teacher Mrs. Suzanne Giffey-Molitor is retiring at the end of the 2022-2023 school year. 

Señora Giffey, as she’s referred to by her dozens of students, is one of the longest reigning members of Glenbard South’s staff. She has had a profound impact on South students and community members through her passion for the Spanish language and comforting demeanor.

Giffey’s love for the Spanish language sparked when she was just a child, outside her home of Villa Park, Illinois. The curious seven-year-old overheard her neighbors speaking Spanish and was fascinated, making it her goal to become fluent in the language. 

That was back in the mid 1970s, so it was kind of a rare thing,” Giffey remembered, reminiscing on how her parents chuckled after hearing her ambition to be bilingual.

Giffey’s passion for language  grew as she began formally learning Spanish at Glenbard East High School. Inspired by Mrs. Jane Willard, her Spanish 3 Honors teacher, Giffey realized that she wanted to be a Spanish teacher who exhibited the same qualities of warmth and encouragement as Willard did. 

Giffey was fueled by her desire to become a teacher to continue her education at Eastern Illinois University. Following her studies, she began her teaching career at Thornton Fractional North High School in Calumet City, Illinois, where she imparted her knowledge of Spanish to high school students from 1990 to 1993. 

Despite her love for teaching, Giffey’s thirst for further knowledge pushed her to leave Calumet City and accept a full ride scholarship for a Master’s Degree in Spanish Linguistics at Pennsylvania State University.

And when I graduated from there, I had a choice. I could have either taken [Pennsylvania State University’s] offer of doing a Ph. D program or take a job here at Glenbard itself teaching Spanish,” she recalled.

Giffey remarked that this choice wasn’t very difficult, as she preferred teaching high school students in comparison to college students. She explained that she valued close relationships with her students, and found it easier and more fulfilling to create bonds with high school students. 

It’s the connection to people that makes me love my job every day. I knew that I needed to be where I would have that contact. In university, students take the course, and they get their grade, whatever. You never hear from them or speak to them ever again. Whereas when you’re teaching high school kids, you get to see a student evolve from freshman year to senior year.”

After receiving her Master’s degree, Giffey began teaching at Glenbard South High School in 1995. Over her 28 years at South, she has taught every Spanish level that is offered, from Spanish 1 to AP Spanish. 

Currently, she teaches Spanish 3 Honors and Spanish 5AP, and is in the process of helping her AP Spanish students study for the upcoming AP Test. 

Giffey has been the Spanish Club teacher sponsor for about 25 years, and the Raider Class Act teacher sponsor for 23 years. 

Giffey is set apart from other educators by her raw, endless love for what she teaches.  Her excitement and appreciation for Spanish culture and language is evident in her lessons, and she encourages students to share that same passion. 

Simah Osmani, a junior in Giffey’s Spanish 4 Honors class, refers to Giffey as the most comforting teacher she’s ever had. 

“Her Spanish class made me want to take Spanish all four years of high school because of her trust and confidence in me. She uplifted me and helped her students, and we never felt bad about anything in her classes,” Osmani explained. 

Giffey’s classroom can often be found bustling with students, whether it’s in the mornings before school, during lunch periods or after school during Spanish Club Meetings. Her room, home to a large bulletin board of photos of past and present students and colorful posters, is a safe environment for students to share their experiences with Giffey or seek out additional Spanish help. 

Her approachable and compassionate demeanor make her a trusted confidant to many of her students, and they know they can always count on her for guidance and support. Giffey’s commitment to her students is undeniable, and a lesson in what it truly means to care for others.

“Helping high school students gave my life meaning for the problems that I went through as a teenager in high school.” Giffey said, referring to her favorite quote by Viktor Frankl, “Suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning”.

Giffey’s motivation and determination for her students’ success is palpable, and inspires students to work their hardest in both their academic and personal lives.

Deividas Judickas, a senior in Giffey’s AP Spanish class and the President of Spanish Club,  said, “She will forever be an inspiration to persist despite all odds, despite anything and everything that may come your way. Her kindness and patience are unparalleled by anyone I’ve met, and there is a part of her in each and every student she has taught.” 

Giffey’s endless resilience is not only demonstrated to her students in her teaching career, but reflected in her personal life.  

Giffey is a breast cancer survivor, and has been in remission since 2009.  She explained that this experience was the first time she realized that “no matter how hard you work, sometimes if your health is taken from you, you simply can’t do simple tasks.” 

Giffey recalls how her illness taught her lessons about the fragility of life and the importance of empathy towards others. For her, seemingly easy motions like walking from her classroom to the Xerox machine were daunting, and she was forced to confront the limitations of her own body. 

Through this experience, Giffey explained how she gained a sense of humility and a deeper understanding of the struggles faced by those with physical, mental and emotional challenges. 

You never truly understand the battle that others are fighting within or even within the walls of their own home, or themselves, physically, mentally or emotionally.” she finished.

Giffey outwardly advocates for kindness and compassion towards others, and recognizes that everyone is fighting their own unique battles that may not always be visible to the outside world. She believes that helping others is one of the central purposes of her life, but has realized that prioritizing herself and practicing self-care is just as important. 

This realization occurred after the death of her late husband, Bob Giffey, in December 2016. This newfound understanding has allowed her to cultivate a sense of balance in her life and to approach her work with renewed energy and focus.

If you let anger consume you, you will become a very bitter and sad person. So I learned how to take situations that were not necessarily easy for me, but learn how to work around them so that I could continue to grow and flourish,” Giffey explained with a hopeful smile.

‘G-Money,’ as she was adoringly nicknamed by her students, is a source of inspiration to students and teachers alike, and finds her happy place to be her classroom. 

For her, teaching is more than just her job – it’s her calling and her purpose. What Giffey  loves most about her profession is the opportunity to engage with her students on a personal level and to make a tangible difference in their lives. She derives great joy from seeing her students grow and develop both academically and personally, and takes pride in helping them achieve their goals. It is the deep and meaningful relationships that she has formed with her students that make teaching such a fulfilling and rewarding experience for the longtime, adored Spanish teacher. 

I’m gonna miss the people the most. I would say the random interactions like bumping into teachers in the Xerox room and just having conversations from running into kids in the LRC. Like you [talking directly to Sana Muneer] were studying during your lunch period, and just seeing you and being able to talk about life and find out where you’re going and what you’re doing.” Giffey smiled. 

“I also think [I will miss] the energy.” She continued. “Teachers understand that, when you teach all day, you’re the person on the stage. And the kids and the chairs are the audience and there’s a lot of energy that is exchanged between the teacher and the students. So I think not having that energy is going to be something I’m going to miss a lot,” she finished. 

Giffey has a lengthy bucket list to complete during her retirement, beginning with practicing each day with gratitude. 

“I’m hoping to start each day with yoga and meditation, or at my church just with a quiet prayer time. And that feeling that feeds kind of all three, my mind, my body and my spirit.”

Giffey also dreams to live in France until she is fluent in French, as well as to live in a villa in Southern Spain for a few months of the year. She is also determined to give back to her community by volunteering at the Northern Illinois Food Bank. 

“And when I need that crazy energy of kids, I will probably show up as a substitute in and around the Glenbard community.” she finished with a wink.

Mrs. Suzanne Giffey-Molitor’s retirement marks the end of a remarkable 28-year career as a Spanish teacher at Glenbard South High School. She leaves a lasting legacy at Glenbard South and will be remembered fondly by her colleagues, students and the entire school community.

Senora Giffey and her period 6 AP Spanish class pose for a group selfie.
Senora Giffey smiles in front of a Pablo Picasso painting (Sana Muneer)