News Releases

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Former teacher, and her student, has passion for telling stories

I would never have imagined that my fourth grade teacher at Seminole Elementary School would be a good friend of mine in my adult years or would I think I would be writing an article about her.  The teacher I’m talking about is Sue Kotchman, for those of you who had her at Seminole Elementary you may remember her from her maiden name Cusmano. She was my favorite teacher as I was growing up, and one that influenced me in my life. 

Fourth grade class of Sue Kotchman, then Sue Cusmano, during 1979-1980.
 I am in the second row from the back, fourth from the left.
I remember being in her class and always being motivated to do the best I could. I did well in school, and she would challenge me to do even better.  At that point in my life, I actually wanted to be a teacher because I loved her class and going to school.  She made learning fun.

I am probably just one of many that she has made a difference in their lives.  Now that I am a mom, I understand how important teachers are in our children’s lives.

Kotchman was in the Pinellas County School system for more than 32 years. I think my class was one of her first classes she taught.  She was a teacher, curriculum specialist and principal focusing on elementary education.

 About 4 years ago, she suffered a brain aneurysm and almost didn’t make it. She will tell you she’s a walking miracle.  After her health issues, she decided it was time to retire from Madeira Beach Elementary School as their principal.  After retiring, she started writing children’s books.  She published one last year and just recently published another in a series of books.  The books are called “With Love, from Grandma” and “With Love, from Grandpa.” Kotchman told me she always wanted to write books, a dream she has had since teaching.  She writes for fun, and her books help kids learn lessons about life.  Her “With Love” series books deal with the importance of relationships, spending time together and realistic situations. Her first book deals with the relationship of a little girl and her grandma and how she copes when her grandma dies.  How many kids have someone or something die in their life? We all do. It’s the cycle of life.  Kotchman uses her two kid’s names as the main characters in her books.  Her daughter Christal is in the “With Love, from Grandma.” And her son Casey is in the “With Love, from Grandma”.  After she wrote her first book with her daughter in it, when she would read in to students at schools, they would always say you need a book about your son.  You see her son was the first baseman of the Tampa Bay Rays, and kids knew he was her son. Kotchman says the books are realist fiction.  They have some things in them that are true, but the story may not be totally true.  Her latest book has a lot of Florida beach scenery, which helps students relate to the story.
Kotchman goes a step further than just writing the book, she visits classrooms around Pinellas County and reads her books to students.  She says her books are designed to help students with their writing skills. She says very often kids don’t know what to write about and they need to draw from an experience.  Her book “With Love, From Grandpa” does this. The main character has a writing assignment from school and doesn’t know what to write about until he finishes his day of fishing with his grandpa.

Kotchman’s motto is everyone has a story.  She wants to help students develop their writing skills by finding stories in their lives to write about. I guess she’s been instilling this for years.  Now her story is my story for you today.  I’m so thankful for teachers like Sue Kotchman, who make a positive difference in young children’s lives and help promote literacy.

***If you would like Sue Kotchman to read to your students at your school, you can email her at

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