Who is your favorite teacher? Sound familiar? Perhaps that is because just last week I was posting about the power of teachers and how that question is universal. I’m happy to say I had many amazing teachers throughout the years that cared about me not just as a student but also as a person. Memories range from Mrs. Duin declaring, with an exasperated voice, that “sometimes an eagle is just an eagle” when we were all overthinking in poetry class to Mrs. Smith helping me catch up after I had been sick for awhile. What may surprise you though is that when I answer the question most honestly, my answer is comprised of educators who helped me find direction within an advising role: Mr. Saulino, my high school guidance counselor and then my college admissions adviser Jamey Perry.
You all remember high school – slight cringe – it is a tumultuous time no matter how great the memories. Life is just starting to get real and while you were dealing with your personal life, you needed to keep up in school. Not an easy task. My high school experience started with a big transition from a small Catholic school to a larger public school and my assigned guidance counselor, Mr. Saulino, was the first educator I met before the year even started. In our first conversation to set up my classes for freshman year, he asked me what I wanted my major to be in college because whatever it was, he’d help me get there. I won’t bother you with the details of my 14-yr-old ambition because needless to say the answer changed many times over four years but Mr. Saulino stood by me the entire time. He was a roadmap to college because he saw my potential plus had the experience and knowledge to help me through the process. Mr. Saulino helped me adjust as a freshman, checked in on me and my grades throughout the years and made sure I didn’t miss college application deadlines. Plus, and perhaps most importantly, he was a safe haven when my world was getting crazy. I knew whenever I was overwhelmed and convinced I was going to fail – the way only a teenager could be – I could ask for advice by visiting the guidance counselor offices. Looking back, it was invaluable to have someone to talk about the big picture. Mr. Saulino helped me look past the stress of a singular test or gain perspective when my personal life was affecting my grades. He also provided a swift kick now and again – especially when senioritis was threatening to take over. And it wasn’t just me, he comes up in conversation even today between me and my best friend from back in the day. With his help – not to forsake the help of family, friends and teachers – we both graduated.
Then in college, the pattern repeats. I met my adviser Jamey Perry before classes even started and we got to work on my career. Jamey- who let us all call him by his first name – had the remarkable talent of remembering your name in a sea of thousands of communications majors. Every time I saw him I received the same welcome, my first and last name as a cheer. Similarly to Mr. Saulino he helped to guide me through a much larger school, to pick courses and decide when to start interning, deal with life’s unexpected turns and ultimately to earn my diploma and a job – in my field. But, it didn’t end there. He’s still available to me. I was able to call him out of the blue about a year ago and just chat about my career because I was thinking about what to do next. How incredible is that after seven years? And he had great advice!
I’m so thankful to have had these two educators as part of my support system in school. I don’t think I would have found my way as successfully without them. What has me worried is that this experience is becoming less and less the norm as supporting educators within the schools – like guidance counselors – are being let go as budgets keep dwindling. I’ve touched upon a few ways I was helped but these educators are incredibly valuable for even more reasons. They can help fight bullying, assist students with personal crises, guide the student that is a first generation college-goer and more. Not to mention they are a resource to their fellow educators and their students’ parents too. Being a kid is not easy and in many ways it seems to only get harder, driving the need more than ever before to provide more resources for their growth. Because to help a student grow, every member of the “village” – parents, teachers, tutors, counselors, etc. – is important.
Have these unsung heroes of education influenced your life too?