I began my career as a high school teacher and then served as a middle school counselor, supporting the career, academic, and psycho-social needs of students in Virginia. My experience as a classroom teacher helped me to understand the contextual factors that affect children and adolescents when they enter the learning environment. I quickly learned that students bring their entire world into the classroom, including the norms, values, and challenges of their homes and communities. Once I acknowledged their realities, my students would learn the history I presented them, even if they claimed to hate the subject. As a school counselor, I never forgot the lessons I learned in the classroom and was able to support students from diverse backgrounds, including students with varying abilities and conditions that affected their educational experiences. As a counselor educator that trains students to serve as counselors in school and community settings, I am able to help these future counselors to conceptualize their clients in a holistic way.
When Dr. Nickels asked me to join PedsAcademy to bring the counseling perspective to the work, I was elated. She and I had talked quite a bit about the social and emotional effects of critical and chronic illnesses on children, adolescents, and families. I am honored to be able to support the teaching interns and faculty by sharing information about family dynamics and empathy, and by creating spaces for them to process their experiences. I look forward to opportunities to broaden the awareness of and support for mental health within Peds Academy.