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Lakewood Ranch educator covers pre-K jitters in her first book

Susan Cueto hopes her book can help pre-K students overcome their fear of starting school.

Eagle Trace's Susan Cueto has published a children's book to help pre-K students overcome their fears of starting school.
Eagle Trace's Susan Cueto has published a children's book to help pre-K students overcome their fears of starting school.
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Year after year, Eagle Trace’s Susan Cueto watched as pre-K students overcame their fears of starting school.

They struggled to leave mom or dad. They were scared they wouldn’t make friends. They were nervous and didn't know what to expect. Most importantly, they weren’t able to express these emotions and fears in words. 

Eventually they learned that school can be a fun place to go and everything will be OK. 

Cueto decided to put those fears and apprehensions into words in her book “Joey’s Preschool Jitters” to help students, parents and teachers prepare for pre-K. 

Cueto, who is 70 years old, started her career in education as a substitute teacher in Shelton, Connecticut, before she transitioned to being a paraprofessional at an elementary school for 20 years. She loved working with the students. 

In 2015, she moved to Lakewood Ranch and continued in education by serving as a substitute teacher in the School District of Manatee County. She loves spending time with the students whether it’s working with building blocks, creating art, doing puzzles or learning numbers, shapes and colors. 

Eagle Trace's Susan Cueto uses the experience she has in the classroom with pre-K students to write her first book, "Joey's Preschool Jitters."
Courtesy image

Cueto said she loves substituting at Freedom Elementary School. She said she will walk into the cafeteria in the morning to see her three pre-K classes and that all the students are excited to see “Ms. Sue.” She said they ask if she is going to be their teacher for the day and they are disappointed if she’s not.

“My favorite time is when they come up, give you a hug, and say, ‘I love you Ms. Sue,’” she said. “I don’t have a bad day with any of these kids in class, even if I have a bad day.”

Cueto said she always knew she wanted to write a book. The biggest challenge was deciding what to write about, but she decided to write about what she knows best — children. 

She thought about the experiences of her grandchildren, Alexandria Brackett and Joey Brackett, when they were in pre-K as well as the experiences of her countless pre-K students. 

She put her thoughts to paper.

Cueto said it took her a year-and-a-half to write “Joey’s Preschool Jitters.” 

“I’m a kid at heart, so for me to write a book about kids, I put myself in their place,” Cueto said. 

She had friends help her edit it before she pitched it to Maine Authors Publishing, where her 32-year-old daughter Michelle Hodgdon is a book designer. 

After a thorough children’s literature assessment, Cueto worked with illustrator Thomas Brooks who helped her vision for her book come to life. Cueto said the assessment is conducted by departments at Maine Authors Publishing to determine the quality of the book, whether it’s good enough to sell, and to check for plagiarism. 

Cueto said every time she was asked to change something in her book, she couldn't sleep. She would think of the edits she needed to make and what would be best for the book. 

In the end, Cueto said, she was amazed by the final book. 

“I’m excited that my words, my thoughts and my vision will help children of the preschool age overcome their fears of starting school, will help them learn new things and will help them find new friends,” Cueto said. “I feel good that I can express words for a 3 year old who can’t express themselves.”

Cueto will go to Maine in August to participate in a book fair with other authors. She also hopes the School District of Manatee County will approve her book to be in the schools as she would like to go to classrooms to read her book to students. 

Much like Joey in her book, Cueto said she hopes her book can help pre-K students to see that preschool is not as hard or scary as they think. 

“I want them to know at the end that it all worked out,” she said. “I wrote (on the back of the book), ‘Hang in there, you can do it.’”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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