NJ Teachers’ Lounge is excited to continue its Teachers of New Jersey series in 2017. Due to the overwhelming popularity of the series, it now comes out twice a month. This editorial series is curated by photojournalist, Gregory Andrus, creator of the social media series, Portraits of the Jersey Shore. These stories highlight the joys, struggles, and personal reflections that surround being a teacher.

Teachers of New Jersey: The Transforming Loss that Called Me to School Counseling

“I am the school psychologist at Cedar Grove in Toms River. I have been working in this school for four years, and I have been working in Toms River schools since 2008. I love it … I love working with kids. I love doing counseling and IQ tests and social skills groups.”

“I work with kids who are struggling in some capacity with the school’s curriculum, and it is my job to assess what is preventing them from accessing the academics, whether it is because of a learning disability, or emotional problems, or they may have a medical diagnosis. I explain to the kids, ‘I will work with you to come up with the best plan to set you up for success.’ Sometimes when they show up it may be scary for them, and I want them to feel comfortable. So I tell them that they can tell me anything, whether it is something going on at home or at school, or maybe they are struggling with reading and they don’t want to tell anybody.”

“I also make sure the parents feel they can trust me too. Some of them come in with a lot going on at home with the family dynamics, and some families have been through a lot of trauma, so you have to take that into consideration, too. Some families have been on a long road to getting the child the services they need, and it has been a tough road with the family. So I always try to make sure I am really friendly with the family, to let them know I am there with any questions they may have, and just take it from there to build a rapport.” 

“Throughout the years, there have been a lot of different situations with the crises families have  experienced when I see a child. I have had families where child protective services have been involved because of some dynamics at home. There have been situations where there have been some tough divorces going on, or abuse from one spouse to another, or abuse to the children. With those cases, I just make sure that I am there for the children, and that they can come and know that it is safe to talk to me about what is going on, or just cry, or whatever they need to do. I try to be their rock. Sometimes there are things that are so unstable in their lives, that they feel that they don’t have any security. So I make sure they know that they have their teachers, and our principal and vice principal are fantastic, and that they can always come to me: my door is always open. I tell the kids they don’t need an appointment; they can just tell the teacher they need to talk, and I will make sure I see them.” 

“When I was a teenager, my father passed away from cancer. That was really tough on my family. I had just turned eighteen, and there were a lot of transitions going on in my own life. I was going off to college, my dad had just passed away, and I was leaving my mom and younger sister at home…there were so many mixed emotions going on that at time. And to be honest, I sought out counseling at Rutgers, where I went to school at that time, and I really thought it helped. My mom and my sister got counseling too, and it really helped them as well. And that’s when I realized that was what I wanted to do with my life—to work with kids as a counselor.”

“I have worked with kids who have lost a parent while they are going to school, and I struggle with that. I am seeing this child cry, and I know exactly what they are going through, but I think to myself, ‘Okay, you got through it, now it is your turn to help them through it.’  And I will share with them my own personal story, so they know that I have been through it myself, and they can see that life goes on, and they will get through it.” 

“When my dad died, that was the pivotal moment in my life when I really knew what I wanted to do. It made me work harder, and I knew I wanted to go to grad school, and I knew I wanted to work really hard and help my mom, and help the kids I would be working with as a school psychologist. What I do today, is definitely because of my dad’s passing, and I love what I do, helping these kids.”

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