Susan A. Goglia, a retired Howard County teacher and principal who was as comfortable arguing for students' needs before superintendents as she was teaching reading to first-graders, died Friday of colon cancer at Gilchrist Hospice Care. She was 59.
"She was extremely well thought of by the administration because, as an educator, she had a clear vision. She always put her staff first and shared ways to make things happen," said Jonathan E. Davis, principal of Swansfield Elementary School in Columbia and a longtime friend.
"Susan was a wonderful teacher's principal because she was connected and always supportive," Mr. Davis said. "She had high expectations for her school and staff."
Susan Armstrong was born in Baltimore and raised in Towson. She was a 1967 graduate of Towson High School and earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1974 from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Mrs. Goglia earned master's degrees in reading in 1981 and gifted-and-talented education in 1985, both from the Johns Hopkins University. She also earned certification in administration and supervision from Hopkins in 1987.
Mrs. Goglia taught second and third grades at Talbot Springs and Atholton elementary schools from 1975 to 1985.
From 1985 to 1991, she was supervisor of the gifted-and-talented programs for Howard County public schools. She was appointed assistant principal at Laurel Woods Elementary School in 1991 and was assistant principal at Stevens Forest Elementary School from 1994 to 1996.
While she was principal of Centennial Lane Elementary School from 1996 to 2000, Mrs. Goglia created student and staff development programs that are credited with increasing student performance on Maryland's standardized tests.
Also during her tenure at Centennial Lane, the school received recognition for excellence in education from local, state and national organizations, including Baltimore Magazine, which named it one of the top schools in the state.
She was selected as one of the region's distinguished educators by The Washington Post in 2002.
Mrs. Goglia served as principal of Dasher Green Elementary School from 2000 to 2003.
While at Dasher Green, she established several innovative programs to support low-income and at-risk students.
"She wrote and received a grant from the Maryland State Department of Education to establish a resource center to prepare children to enter school ready to learn," said a sister, Peggy Armstrong of Washington. "Named the Judy Center, it honors Judy Hoyer, an advocate for early childhood education."
She also established a partnership between the school and Notre Dame College of Maryland that resulted in a professional development school for teachers.
Mrs. Goglia was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2004.
Her last assignment was serving as principal of Rockburn Elementary from 2003 until 2005, when she retired because of failing health.
"She had been my mentor when I was assistant principal at Parkers Run 12 years ago, and I later became her assistant principal at Rockburn," said Heidi J. Balter, who recently became principal of Atholton Elementary.
Mrs. Balter was named acting principal at Rockburn during Mrs. Goglia's illness and succeeded her as principal.
"She was amazing when it came to building a collaborative learning center. She inspired others and found leaders in others," Mrs. Balter said. "She was always thinking outside of the box. Nothing was routine. She wanted to try new experiences in order to reach kids in a different way."
Though Mrs. Goglia's illness sapped her energy and strength, Mrs. Balter said, "She still tried to inspire while passing the torch."
After retiring, Mrs. Goglia taught leadership courses to educators at McDaniel College and Hopkins.
Mrs. Goglia was an avid gardener, and during the early 1990s, she grew flowers and herbs that she used to make dried flower arrangements that she sold at local craft fairs.
She also enjoyed scuba diving with her husband of 38 years, Michael C. Goglia III, a Verizon electrical engineer and manager.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Also surviving are a son, Mark T. Goglia of Dallas; a daughter, Melissa Goglia Bear of Towson; another sister, Barbara Armstrong Green of Silver Spring; and four grandchildren.