What is a normal day like for you now and when you were back at the campus?
It looks really different now versus when students were on campus, but one thing I can say that they both have in common is every day is very different. I’m never really sure what’s going to happen in my day because my job is to support students and help them and students need help with different things every day. The biggest difference is that now I have to do it over GoGaurdian and Zoom and I can’t physically be there for kiddos when they need help with something, and I have to coordinate like, “Ok, I’ll call you on GoGuardian!” or, “Let’s Zoom in my room!” where before I could just go to their classroom or see them at recess. Being on distance learning is challenging because I miss everyone but I can still give the same support on the computer as I did in person.
Do you like distance learning better than normal learning?
No. I do not like distance learning better than normal learning, but it’s what we have to do right now so I try to always look at the positives. Even though I don’t really love distance learning there are some things that I think are beneficial.
Has distance learning and stay at home orders affected you and your family?
Yes. I have three sons, eleven, eight, and almost one. My eleven and eight year old are doing distance learning and so we’ve had to figure out where the boys are going to go during the day when I have to come to work and then when the stay at home orders happened I was able to be home, working from home, with the boys. So, right now, we're coming back from being off staying home, so we're kinda trying to figure it out again of where my older kids are going to go, and who’s going to help them with their distance learning. But that's been the biggest impact for my family.
Have you ever had a job other than a counselor?
I have had many jobs, I started working when I was fifteen years old. I have always liked my independence and I felt like having a job which earned me money helped me have independence. My first job was at a place called Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, which is in Southern California, and I used to make balloon arches there. Big companies like Disney would come and rent out our ranch and they would have an employee party. They would bring all their families, they could play different games, have ice cream and all sorts of different things, but my main job was prepping everything and making sure that all the food was served, making sure that the ranch was really nice, and that the balloons were out. So that was my first job. After that I started working in retail. I worked at tanning salons and I worked at like a high end bathing suit shop. My last job before I was hired as a counselor was for a really small company in Fairfield and we actually worked with school districts to help them get money.
What job did you want to have when you were younger? Did that make any changes in your life?
I would say that the biggest thing my jobs taught me was customer service. Like helping people in a friendly manner. So, it really taught me to listen to people and try to understand what they're hoping to get out of the situation and then being solution oriented and trying then trying to find a solution that works for everyone.
Why did you want to be a counselor?
I love learning, my parents used to joke that I’m going to be a student forever, because I just kept going back to college. I got lots of degrees, and so I love learning a lot, I really, really, enjoy helping people in general. I’m the person who my family goes to when they need help with something, that's just what I like to do. I felt like being in schools, I could help kids at an earlier age, and help teach them new habits when they were younger, rather than going back when they're older and trying to fix old habits and make new ones. So I thought schools would be the right place for me to help people, to keep learning, because I still learn every day at school.
Has anyone during your career inspired you or influenced you?
There have been a lot of people that have inspired and influenced me. Ms. Edwards, at the middle school, was the person that really encouraged me to feel confident in my counseling skills, in a school setting. I would say, she was probably one of the most influential people that I had early on in my career, that made me really want to do better and be better, and keep going.
In your time as a counselor has there been a memorable moment or experience that you will never forget?
There's been so many! I really value all of our students and I love each and every one, for different reasons. Some students I get to have lunch bunches with and I really value that time, some students I get to meet one on one, sometimes I just go into the classroom. I think there's not necessarily one experience or one student, but I love when former students keep in touch with me. When I hear from them and they are seventeen and eighteen years old or they’re in college, and they reach out to me, it warms my heart. I love hearing what my former students are doing.
What do you think it means to be a counselor?
I think to be a counselor, it means to support. It means to advocate. It means sticking up for someone. For instance, if I feel that a student really needs something in class to help them be successful, my job is to say, "hey, we have to make this happen. We have to support them in this way, how can we do that?" And making sure that that student gets what they need. So advocating. Listening, a lot of listening and teaching. Teaching students different ways to handle different situations and teaching them what they might be feeling, so those are probably the main components.
How do you think it is best to deal with children who come to you for help? Is there a specific strategy you have for helping kids feel comfortable around you?
I think that goes back to the listening part.l, because I really do practice Habit Five: Seek first to understand and then be understood. I really want to know what that student is needing from me, and when I fully understand what that student is needing from me, then I can help support them. Every situation is a little bit different, so I always start with that: tell me what's going on, what’s happening, and then from there we can figure out ways together of what we might do to move forward.
Finally, what advice would you give to children who are reading this interview?
You can do anything. Any goal that you set your mind to is achievable. You can do it all. There are people that support you. I support you and I believe in you.