Distinguished Service Award winner for 2017, Dr. Sue Buster ’82, helps the 34,000 students in the Moreno Valley Unified School District gain skills to succeed in today’s economy. Every student has a Chromebook, and through on-going teacher training and development, Buster and her team have helped create an atmosphere and expectation of excellence.
“I interface mostly with teachers, and that is so powerful in terms of job satisfaction because I’m making a difference for a lot of kids,” says Buster, who is the director of professional development & digital learning for the district. “At the end of the day it’s all about relationship building and modeling, and being an example and supporting and listening. We’re making sure our students can compete in the global workplace. I love what I do.”
Buster was recruited to Christ College by Dr. Marty Schramm when she was a freshman at USC. “I was really interested in switching my major,” Buster recalls. “I went on a tour [of Concordia] and fell in love with it. I just felt at home.”
I had amazing role models who made the difference in my life and I wanted to do the same thing,” she says. “It didn’t matter the setting.
She knew from a young age that she wanted to be an elementary teacher, inspired by a string of “amazing teachers” she had in public schools. After seven years in Lutheran education, Buster transitioned to public schools as a special education teacher so she could work at her daughter’s school.
“I had amazing role models who made the difference in my life and I wanted to do the same thing,” she says. “It didn’t matter the setting.”
Moving to the Inland Empire showed Buster communities with “poverty like I’d never seen before.” Most students in Moreno Valley are English learners, and 83 percent are on free or reduced lunch.
It became a passion for me to support kids and accelerate their learning.
“It became a passion for me to support kids and accelerate their learning,” Buster says.
While working with students and families, Buster “realized, ‘This is the ministry.’ Deep down I really feel like this is what Jesus would do if he were here. I never saw the challenges as depressing or overwhelming.”
She became an assistant principal, then a principal. This academic year was her first in her present position. She and a team of curriculum experts craft workshops and offer instructional coaching for each teacher and thirty-nine principals in the district. Her daughter, too, is a CUI grad and works in the same district as a fourth grade teacher. The Busters’ other daughter is a university-trained actress.
Buster also serves as president of her church congregation and as the Pacific Southwest District layperson representative for Region 3. Her husband, an attorney for juvenile dependency, is very involved in foster youth ministry at the church.
“I feel extremely honored to receive this award,” Buster says.