Susan Liles says she is the queen of roadblocks.
“How do you take all you’ve learned — all the obstacles — and turn it into positives?” asked Liles, assistant principal at Brandon Elementary.
As a child, Liles would have been labeled “at risk.” Her father passed away right before her fifth-grade year, and she was raised by a single parent. She said she feels her past roadblocks help her relate to the students at Brandon Elementary.
“It doesn’t matter what you came from,” she said. “Roadblocks are not there to put you down, but to help you grow. Kids in this generation think they’re stuck. Not everything defines you.”
Growing up in Kingwood, Texas, as a typical middle child, Liles was interested in journalism. She was involved in yearbook, sportswriting and taking photos on the sidelines at football games. Her dream job? ESPN
She then worked for 17 years in Houston in the restaurant business before deciding to go back to school.
“I realized (the restaurant business) was not the life to have to raise a child in working nights and weekends,” Liles said.
That decision influenced her to transfer her credits to Stephen F. Austin State University and pursue a degree in History and Political Science. At that time, she began subbing at Trout Primary, and the principal, Janice Compton, encouraged her to get her Alt Certification.
“She said, ‘Go pass your test,’” Liles said. “She wanted me to be a second grade teacher.”
Liles began teaching at Trout Primary and went on to finish her master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She took a job at Brookhollow teaching fifth grade. She taught some of her students twice because they were in her second-grade class at Trout.
“I loved teaching fifth grade. That’s the age. They understand you more and become completely real,” Liles said. “I was in the Leadership Academy, and then I wondered, ‘What’s next?’ I wanted to be an instructional coach. Mrs. Lazarine called me when I was in an airport and encouraged me to apply for the AP job at Brandon Elementary.
“The stars just aligned. I was told to keep trying; when it’s time, they’ll come for you.”
As an assistant principal, Liles handles discipline, 504 plans, campus data (which she loves), lunch and car duty, ARDs and walkthroughs. Her favorite part is just popping in a classroom and watching the students learn.
“You get to watch them grow,” she said. “The challenging part is knowing the right decision and not making a knee-jerk reaction.
“Sometimes you have to find the gray. I believe there can be a gray area. Fair and equal are two different things.”
Liles has two daughters: Chelsea, graduated from Oklahoma State and works in the Human Resource department for LSU; and Tatum is working on her degree at Stephen F. Austin State University. Liles has been married to her husband, Stephen, for 15 years in November.
For fun, Liles enjoys baseball, football and being a beach bum in Cabo San Lucas.
Through all her roadblocks in life, Liles’ best advice is to be real and stay true to yourself.
“Anything is possible,” she said.