Obituary: Susan J. Pater / Popular Schenley High chemistry teacher
Share with others:
One of the most bittersweet days of Susan Pater's life, says her longtime Schenley High School colleague, Jean Simcic, was the day in 2005 when she sat down at a computer and learned that she had won certification by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards.
"It was not long after she'd learned she had cancer and was facing surgery," said Ms. Simcic. "So it was a difficult time for her, but she was so pleased that all her hard work studying for certification had paid off. She really took her job as a teacher seriously."
Mrs. Pater died of cancer Sunday at her home in Monroeville. She was 52.
During more than two decades of teaching chemistry at Schenley High, Mrs. Pater combined challenging instruction with a playfulness that endeared her to teachers and students alike, Ms. Simcic said.
She coordinated her school's participation in the National Science Bowl competition and the Chemistry Olympics, working closely with students in Schenley's International Baccalaureate program as well as those enrolled in the school's Center for Advanced Studies, and encouraged the more advanced among them to take courses at the University of Pittsburgh.
Yet she also had fun with her job, said Amanda Jackson, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., her daughter.
"One of the things she'd do would [be to] color-coordinate her lab coat and goggles," Ms. Jackson recalled. "She had a collection in every color. She'd come home and say, 'Well, guess which goggles I wore today?' "
As a high school student, Ms. Jackson valued her mother's help with science homework.
"It was like having my own personal tutor," she said. "But my brother, Joshua, was the real science guy in the family."
Still, while Joshua Jackson, of Regent Square, would become a mechanical engineer, his sister ended up teaching science to middle school students.
Indeed, there were a few times when, as coach for Schenley's Science Bowl team, Mrs. Pater would find herself in competition with Joshua, who was a member of Gateway High School's team. But Mrs. Pater made the most of their rivalry.
"She'd say, 'Hah, you guys don't know this, but we do,' and joke around with him about who was going to win," said Ms. Jackson.
Even Mrs. Pater's two-year battle with cancer didn't slow her down.
She continued teaching classes through much of her chemotherapy, and while she had to stop work last year, "I know she was looking forward to going back," said her daughter. "She loved her job."
An enthusiastic gardener and Pittsburgh Steelers fan, Mrs. Pater liked going with her family to games and to Latrobe, where she was born and grew up, to observe training camp.
"She was always in good spirits, always happy. She was the heart of our household," Ms. Jackson said.
Besides her daughter and her son, Mrs. Pater is survived by her husband, Victor; her parents, Robert and Jane Iscrupe, of Latrobe; a sister, Virginia Iscrupe, of Latrobe; and two brothers, Ronald Iscrupe, of Latrobe, and Donald Iscrupe, of Cleveland.
Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. today and from 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow at Jobe Funeral Home, Beatty Road and Route 48 North, Monroeville, where the funeral will begin at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Interment will follow at Westmoreland County Memorial Park.
Contributions may be made in her name to the UPMC Cancer Pavilion, Suite 1B, 5150 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh 15232.
First Published March 1, 2007 12:00 am