Susan B. Smallwood was working in her first assignment as a teacher, but already knew firsthand the difficulties encountered by her special-education students. She spent her life battling muscular dystrophy and had used a wheelchair since childhood.
Ms. Smallwood, 26, died Wednesday of injuries suffered in a car lTC accident on Cherry Tree Lane, while on her way to her students at Joseph C. Briscoe High School, a public alternative school in Baltimore.
Near her Sykesville home, her specially equipped minivan struck the back of a school bus. Then a car hit her van, police said. Students from the bus were treated at Carroll County General Hosand released Wednesday morning.
Meanwhile, Ms. Smallwood talked to police and made arrangements to have her van towed before she was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, police said.
She died in surgery at the hospital three hours later.
At the time of her death, she was completing a counseling internship at Baltimore City Community College and had just been accepted into a doctoral program at the University of Southern California, said her mother, Kathleen B. Goldman of Towson.
"She always loved teaching, especially those who really needed her help," Mrs. Goldman said. "She said, 'Muscular dystrophy counts for nothing,' and went on with her life. She kept moving along, despite her physical problems. She earned so many degrees that I couldn't keep up."
The mother and daughter spoke every day, often about the students at Joseph C. Briscoe, where Ms. Smallwood had been on the job for two months.
Mona Wilson, a teacher's assistant at the school, praised Ms. Smallwood as "a very sweet person, always doing things for the children to encourage them to do their work."
"And she was very serious about her work," Mrs. Wilson added. "She loved teaching the children. She was a committed teacher and very committed to the children. She never let being in a wheelchair handicap her -- nothing got in the way of her job. I feel privileged to have known her."
"Susan was a first-year teacher who you knew instantly was a natural," said Jack Knott, principal at Briscoe. "She was immediately loved by her ninth-grade students as well as by the staff."
The former Susan Granruth earned her bachelor's degree from Liberty College in Lynchburg, Va., and learned sign language so she could teach hearing-impaired students. As a volunteer with the Single Step program at Dundalk Community College, she helped to prepare special-education students for college and a career.
In 1993, she married Lawrence A. Smallwood, who survives her.
"She always told me she intended to accomplish a lot," Mrs. Goldman said. "She did everything she possibly could have within a short lifetime."
Services will be at 10 a.m. todayat Haight Funeral Home, 6416 Sykesville Road, Sykesville.
In addition to her mother and her husband, Ms. Smallwood is survived by a son, Jeremiya J. Smallwood; and her father, Donald Granruth of Dundalk.
Pub Date: 10/14/96