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PSS special education director Suzanne Lizama, 62

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SUZANNE Lizama, one of the longest-serving employees of the Public School System, succumbed to complications from lung cancer on Sunday evening. She was 62.

Suzanne Lizama

In a phone interview, her daughter Robin Palacios said her mother was diagnosed with lung cancer on Feb. 26, 2018.

On Friday, Lizama was admitted to the Commonwealth Health Center, her daughter said.

“They did a CT scan on Saturday. The doctor said the cancer did not spread, but she died of liver failure as a result of her immunotherapy,” her daughter said.

Lizama joined PSS in 1989 as a special education or SPED teacher. In the 1990s, she became director of special education, a position she held until she passed away.

One of her last acts as SPED director was to successfully advocate for the inclusion of teacher aides in the federally funded retention incentive program for educators.

Palacios said her mother also “fought for her students — she made sure that they received appropriate support.”

Lizama is survived by her husband Vicente and two children, Robin Palacios and Katherine Eusebio.

Palacios is the PSS Early Intervention program director while Eusebio is a teacher at Koblerville Elementary School.

Palacios said her mother was only one-year-old when she first arrived on Saipan in 1959. Lizama’s father worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, which maintained a field training station on the island until 1961.

Lizama’s father later worked for the Truk (Chuuk) and the Marianas district administrations, which were part of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands administered by the U.S.

Lizama attended Mount Carmel School and received her associate degree from Northern Marianas College. She obtained her bachelor’s degree from the University of Guam.

“The CNMI government then sent her to Hawaii to obtain her master’s degree in special education,” Palacios said.

“Before she became very weak, she called me on Wednesday last week,” Palacios said. “She wanted to thank all of us — her family, her colleagues, her cancer team, and health providers at CHC — for the support they provided her. I think she knew her time was coming,” her daughter said.

“She was a good woman. She loved her children and grandchildren. She always enjoyed family time. Every summer, I would plan a summer trip and we would go on vacation. She always looked forward to personal time.”

In a separate interview, acting Education Commissioner Jackie Quitugua described Lizama as a “very strong advocate for children, especially kids who are in need — her death is a loss for PSS.”

Lizama’s funeral service will be held on Saturday at San Antonio Church.

“This will be for a rosary and a public viewing and a Mass,” Palacios said. “After that the family will take her to the funeral home for her cremation.”

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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